OUR SAY: Those least able to do the heavy lifting may buckle under the strain

GOVERNMENTS measure budgets in billions, but households measure them in precious dollars.

And it will be the cumulative impact of so many small cuts to regular household budgets that will be the real story out of Joe Hockey’s first budget as federal treasurer.

And it’s not just the families who prospered for so long in the Howard-Costello years that will now be bearing the brunt.

Students, the young unemployed and those on aged pensions, the groups least likely to support the coalition at the ballot box, who will feel the effects of the first Hockey budget the most.

The $7 co-payment to visit a GP - coupled with the power for hospital emergency departments to charge for visits - is the most significant medical funding announcement since Medicare was introduced as Medibank in the mid-1970s.

It brings to an end almost four decades of a universal free healthcare that was the envy of much of the world.

In a similar vein, the deregulation of university fees and a doubling of the interest rate on student loans will make tertiary education far more expensive and put enormous pressure on students from regional areas.

There is a real danger this policy will reverse the improvements in recent years in getting country students into tertiary education and country graduates into good regional jobs.

There will also be small increases to family fuel bills and cuts to family support payments, but that’s what we should expect from the first budget of a new government.

Mr Hockey has been glibly selling the philosophy behind this budget as the “end of the age of entitlement.”

Most Australians would agree the country needs to work its way back to a surplus, but the policy settings Mr Hockey has begun to put in place while having very little impact on the wealthy will savagely penalise the least well off in our community.

What we are really seeing is the “end of the age of enlightenment.”

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