Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has received flak because of his budget cuts to welfare payments of war veterans' children. Mr Abbott has been called "callous and hard-hearted" by the Opposition for cutting the $211.60 annual bonus as part of the government's mining tax repeal package.
Mr Abbott has denied accusations that he was singling out the children of Australia's war veterans for cutting their income support bonus. The prime minister defended his government's decision to reduce benefits to war veterans' children. He said the budget cut was part of the mining tax repeal package and reminded everyone that he had been upfront on the issue before the election.
The Australian government provides an income support bonus amounting to $211.60 every year to the children of war veterans under 16 years of age, homeless or living away from home. Those under 25 years old who were still studying full-time were also covered under the income support package. The bonus was meant to pay for unanticipated expenses with funds to be taken from the mineral resources rent tax (MRRT).
The New South Wales RSL state president, Don Rowe, said he was "absolutely disgusted" by the government's decision to cut income support to veterans' children. Mr Rowe thinks the move is a penny-pinching exercise. Income support was meant to help the veterans' families.
On March 17, Mr Abbott had promised to abolish the underperforming MRRT and the benefits it was funding. Aside from the war bonus, schoolkids bonus was affected as well.
Mr Abbott said the income support payments were given to tens of thousands of people, including war veterans' children. During his parliamentary question time, Mr Abbott said he was aware of what members of the opposition are trying to do. He said his critics were trying to paint an image of a callous and hard-hearted government. He reiterated that the budget cut was part of the Coalition's election commitment.
He admitted that the children of war veterans will not be happy about the income support removal but they were not being singled out. Mr Abbott accused the Opposition of falsely accusing the government and called it an "outrageous smear."
The opposition had compared the Abbott government's stand on income support payments to its willingness to fund a paid parental leave scheme with generous payments of up to $75,000.
Mr Abbott said it was "simply false" to accuse the government of picking on veterans and their children. He added that the government was only meeting its election promise of a proper index military superannuation pensions.
The prime minister said veterans should understand that the government needs to keep its commitment since it cannot give away money that it doesn't have.
When the new Senate term takes effect in July, the federal government is expected to repeal the MRRT.