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In Wayne's world, it's better to be old now than later

By Doug Conway, Senior Correspondent
12 May 2009 7:38 PM

CANBERRA, May 12 AAP - Baby boomers are among the budget's biggest losers, and Victorians in general can count themselves the big winners.

Boomers were always going to have to carry the can at some point for Australia's ageing population.

Now they know how much and when it is going to cost them in the pension stakes.

Existing pensioners are fine - the single rate goes up by $32.50 a week and the couples rate by over $10.

But the pensioner of the future - the baby boomers and beyond - certainly cannot expect the state to rock them from cradle to grave.

At present there are five workers to support every Australian of pension age.

By 2050 that will drop by half to 2.5.

Treasurer Wayne Swan calls it a "demographic time bomb", and the clock is ticking for the boomers.

As a result, the pension age will be increased to 67 progressively from 2017 to 2023, and the rate at which the pension is withdrawn with private income will increase to 50 cents in the dollar.

Poor old baby boomers will also be centre and front of stage when taxpayers of the future start repaying net government debt, which is forecast to soar to $188 billion by 2013.

The central element of the budget is a $22 billion infrastructure spend, and Victoria will take the lion's share of $3.6 billion.

The biggest chunk of the spend is $8.5 billion on new road, rail and port works, and the biggest single project is $3.2 billion for a rail line from West Werribee to Melbourne.

Nathan Rees may not be Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's favourite premier, but at least NSW receives $1.5 billion for the biggest single road project, the Hunter Expressway.

The infrastructure spend-a-thon will provide a big boost next financial year to technology ($4.7 billion as the first one-tenth payment for a national broadband network), the environment ($3.5 billion for clean energy initiatives), hospitals ($3.2 billion) and tertiary education ($2.6 billion).

Australians having babies will benefit from the government's first paid parental leave scheme.

There's help, too, for carers, new home buyers and small businesses.

But higher income earners will have their private health insurance rebates cut, as well as their benefit from superannuation salary sacrificing.

It's the unemployed, whoever they are, who will suffer most, because the government expects their numbers to swell to one million by 2010.

That's why baby boomers might regard this as the work-til-you-drop budget - provided, that is, they have a job.

AAP dc/jlw