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For some the chains grow heavier

A memory from 1 July 2000 – the day the GST was introduced in Australia.

I resigned from IBMGS on 30 June 2000 – if I hadn’t, I would have had a fortnightly increase in my pay packet of around $140 – the tax compensation for the introduction of the GST.  That day I wrote a letter to The Age – the first letter I ever wrote to them.  I hadn’t checked the next day and I was upstairs clearing some of my work files as I had been working from home.  The intercom buzzed and I went downstairs to see what my wife Patricia wanted.  She was with one of the local ladies who came in for a couple of hours each day to give me a break.  Patricia at that stage could not hold the paper herself so the helper (angels in my mind) would fold the paper and read out headlines and then the stories she wanted to hear.  The helper had just read out my letter to Patricia and it was the lead letter of the day and The Age titled it “For some of us, the chains grow heavier “.

To this day I can still see the loving smile on Patricia’s face – she was proud of that letter – I hadn’t told her that I was going to write the letter mainly because I doubted it would get published.

This is the letter and as you will no doubt see – nothing has changed

For some of us, the chains grow heavier

I keep hearing how much better off we all will be once the GST is introduced.  Any increases in prices will apparently be more than compensated for by the reduced tax rates.  But what about those people who are not earning any income?

At the age of 59, I have reluctantly given up a well paid job in order to look after my wife who is seriously ill.  It was either that or put her into a nursing home.

The pension that the government pays to carers is ridiculously low and as a result I am now drawing on my superannuation and savings each month.  Even that pension is at risk because the total I have in my superannuation funds is regarded as an asset and currently exceeds the assets limit allowed by the government.

The biggest fear I had to face when deciding to give up work was the fact that I don’t have as much superannuation as I would like.  In ten years I may well have exhausted all my superannuation and be left with only the age pension.

I say I have given up work.  In fact, I am working more hours now than most people do.  The demands on a carer with a seriously disabled partner are high.  I work much, much more than 40 hours a week for nothing except the carer payment and allowance – a total of just under $400 a fortnight.

If my wife didn’t have me to look after her, it would cost the government at least $1400 a fortnight to look after her in a nursing home.

Two-and-a-half months ago, I wrote on this matter to the Prime Minister (John Howard), with copies to the Treasurer, the Opposition Leader, and my own local MP, Alan Griffin.

I received a letter from one of Mr Howard’s staff members saying my GST comments had been referred to the Assistant Treasurer, Rod Kemp.

That is the only response I have had to date, which is disgraceful.

I am fortunate in that I do have some superannuation and a reasonable home to live in.  I am fairly resourceful and still young enough to do certain things.

But there are thousands of carers in the community who are less fortunate than I am, who are struggling to look after their partners, and who will be a lot worse off from tomorrow.  But I don’t think anyone in government in Canberra gives two hoots about them.