My favourite gelato is scoops of panna cotta and hazelnut from Bar Italia in Norton Street, Leichhardt. But I always wondered what was planned for the long-time empty Harold Hawkins Court, a former aged care facility. It's smack-bang in the centre of the cafe strip along Norton Street and I look across at it everytime I indulge in my favourite gelato.
Just over a year ago, Leichhardt Council announced it was forming a partnership with UnitingCare Ageing to develop affordable housing in Leichhardt. The initial focus was providing accommodation for older people with intellectual disabilities and mental health issues. Old aged care facilities, such as Harold Hawkins Court and Annesley House (just around the corner), were to be given new leases of life through the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS). That's really great!
But when I opened the Sunday paper after the Federal Budget, I found that the new round of NRAS funding has been scrapped. That means no NRAS funding for the proposed UnitingCare affordable housing in Leichhardt and elsewhere.
Although no one will feel the blow torch of this Budget more than the young unemployed with no family support who are being fast-tracked to homelessness, there are hidden in the Budget are other surprises for older persons, often struggling to meet housing costs. The Commonwealth-State agreement for concessions and discounts on travel, electricity and rates will be terminated. Financial planner Louise Biti says:
"It will hurt pensioners the most. This will cost $1000 to $2000 a year. No one was expecting that ... ''
Also cut: a voice in government for people with disability. The Coalition Government has announced that it will not fund a separate Disability Discrimination Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission when the term of the current Commissioner, Graeme Innes (ex-Residential Tenancies Tribunal Member), ends in July. This is despite the fact that 37 percent of discrimination complaints relate to disability, and those is so much more for a Disability Discrimination Commissioner to do.
Welcome to 'The Age of Inequality' – the paradigm for a future Australian society. We will see the wedge between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' widen dramatically. High-income earners are barely affected: 'someone earning three times the average wage will lose just 0.9 per cent of their take-home income. And further up the income scale, 'the latest tax statistics show 75 ultra-high-earning Australians paid no tax at all in 2011-12':
It isn’t only millionaires. Tax Office figures show there are 1095 Australians earning in excess of $150,000 who pay no tax. Half of them sought tax advice and shelled out an impressive total of $98 million, which works out to $223,000 each. Their biggest lurk is negative gearing. Most lose large sums on properties they rent out in order to destroy their taxable incomes, hoping to make it up later when they sell the properties for a lightly taxed profit.
I wonder what high income earners will think should they sit down for a gelato at Bar Italia and just happen to look across the road at the empty Harold Hawkins Court?