We have country's biggest welfare bill (but it's not so bad)

BIG BILL: The welfare bill for people living in Bundaberg is the highest in the country - but half of the people receiving benefits here are age pensioners.
BIG BILL: The welfare bill for people living in Bundaberg is the highest in the country - but half of the people receiving benefits here are age pensioners. Mike Knott BUN101214CENTRE2

BUNDABERG'S welfare dependency is costing taxpayers about $412.4 million a year, the most of any postcode in the country, and collectively outstrips what residents pay in income tax.

More than $6.5 billion in government support was paid to the 40 highest-ranking welfare postcodes in 2014-15, according to The Australian.

It found Bundaberg received $414.4 million in welfare payments and paid $351.8 million in income tax.

On average, residents of Bundaberg receive $1.17 in welfare for every dollar of income tax paid.

Hervey Bay receives $1.60 by comparison.

But Hinkler MP Keith Pitt and Bundaberg MP Leanne Donaldson agreed there needed to be some caution in evaluating the statistics as they were skewed by our large number of age pensioners.

Bundaberg has 13,000 aged pensioners followed by 4465 people on the Newstart allowance, just ahead of the disability support pension with 4196 recipients.

"Yes, there is a high number of aged pensioners in the Hinkler electorate, but let me make it very clear: seniors are a valued part of this community," Mr Pitt said.

"These are the people who worked hard to make this nation what it is today, so they should be looked after.

"We do have one of the highest number of retirees in the nation, and that's hardly surprising given we live in such a beautiful part of Australia."

Ms Donaldson said two factors contributed to the figure - our ageing population and job creation.

"Naturally we are going to have a greater proportion of people on the age pension, who are not paying income tax at this stage of their life," she said.

Ms Donaldson said it was "incredibly unfair" to tarnish people who worked and paid taxes all their lives or have disabilities or chronic illnesses preventing them from working being portrayed as undeserving of support.

She said the figures did not support a push for cashless debit card in the region.

"There is nothing that supports this expensive and lazy policy at all," she said.

"I will never support a policy that harms not helps."

Topics:  age pension bundaberg centrelink disability support pension hervey bay keith pitt leanne donaldson newstart newstart allowance unemployment benefits welfare

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