While welcoming a surprise centrepiece of the 2023 budget focused on improving access to GPs, ACT Independent Senator David Pocock said the overall takeout from the Albanese Labor Government’s second budget is that it could have been bolder.
“Almost a year into their term and despite a windfall in both political and budget capital, we’ve seen yet another budget that’s a step in the right direction but lacking in ambition,” Senator Pocock said.
“This is against the backdrop of an acute cost-of-living crisis where more and more Australians are struggling to afford the cost of essentials and make ends meet.
“Australians are also seeing the effects of climate change and demanding more leadership and action to protect the people and places we love. This challenge can only be turned into an opportunity if we make smart investments now.
“Now is the time to take bold action. This budget contains nothing of the scale needed for a substantial step in the right direction. Tonight the government had a budget chance to adopt expert advice and embark on the reforms needed to build the kind of future we want.
“This is a budget of missed opportunity, on both the revenue and spending side of the equation.
“The biggest win for our community, especially here in the ACT, is the $3.5bn investment in Medicare to provide free consultations for 11.6 million eligible Australians.
“With the highest out of pocket costs and lowest bulk billing rates in the country, this is hugely welcome news for the Canberra community.
“The biggest missed opportunity was the failure to properly reform the Petroleum Resources Rent Tax to give Australians fair return on the exploitation of our resources.
“All the big hard conversations we need to have around structural reform, from over-generous tax concessions on investment properties to revisiting the Stage 3 tax cuts were kicked down the road once again.
“Too often the Government seems to be trying to get away with doing the bare minimum, rather than showing the ambition needed to tackle the crises we face.
“It was encouraging to see some funding and changes flow from negotiations I’ve had with government over various pieces of legislation.
“The $7.5m allocated for the ACT’s Sustainable Household Scheme is welcome, but the failure to fund the $12m Suburb Zero pilot is disappointing.
“Likewise the $1 billion top up to the CEFC for cheap loans to help households electrify is a great move but falls short of what’s needed and pales against the $9.58bn spent on the fuel tax credit – a 28% year on year increase – just one of a gamut of fossil fuel subsidies.
“Safety net payments like JobSeeker, Austudy and Commonwealth Rent Assistance are further missed opportunities.
“Increasing the income support payments by $40 a fortnight is 80% less than the independent expert Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee recommended and not enough to lift people out of poverty.
“A 15% increase to the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance – or $31 a fortnight – still puts the highest amount of that payment $568 below the average cost of a rental property in this country.
“There’s no new real money for additional social and affordable housing supply, and no guaranteed funding for the Housing Australia Future Fund.
“This is a worry when the budget papers note that “Investment vehicles that have been more recently established, or that are investing in more early-stage projects, may not see strong returns in the short term”.
“Especially when the negotiated minimum floor of homes isn’t guaranteed or in the primary legislation.Instead, the commitment is only to amend “NHFIC’s Investment Mandate to require NHFIC to take reasonable steps to allocate a minimum of 1,200 homes to be delivered in each state and territory within 5 years of the Housing Australia Future Fund commencing operation.”
“Climate Change is the biggest threat we face, and Australia is a global leader in species extinction, yet new spending on the environment in this budget was pitifully low.
“While there are funding commitments to set up two new bodies - ‘Environment Protection Australia’ and ‘Environment Information Australia’ - and funding for National Parks infrastructure, there is little else for threatened species. The government has committed to no new extinctions but has failed to find the funding to do so.
“It was good to see funding of $18.1 million allocated over two years from 2023–24 to implement priority reforms to the operation of the Australian Carbon Credit Unit (ACCU) scheme. The $5.9 million to conduct audits of human induced regeneration projects is particularly welcome.
“Small businesses – the backbone of Australia’s economy – need more support.
“The one-year extension to the instant asset write-off is cold comfort with the expiry of the TFE. The 12-month Small Business Energy Incentive to support up to 3.8 million businesses electrify and up to $650 in one-off energy bill relief for around 1 million small businesses are temporary measures that won’t support small business over the longer term.
“$4.4 million to establish the National Construction Industry Forum and an indication that it will commence after July 2023 alongside $760,000 to support a review of modern awards bot give effect to commitments negotiated last year. Security of payments reform is a huge issue across the country with subcontractors and tradies not being paid for work already completed - the NCIF needs to get cracking on dealing this.
“Inflation hurts every Australian family, and it is a relief to see forecasts show this falling to 3¼ per cent next year. The challenge is making sure that it’s not just a short-term relief from frontloading measures and that the government has a plan to manage inflation over the medium and longer term.
“I welcome the projected return to surplus. A more balanced budget is a good thing. If the government had been more bold in generating revenue from fossil fuel companies, we could have had a surplus and more ambitious action..
“Funding for a new Convention Centre-National Stadium precinct is not something I called for in this budget, but it’s encouraging to see $159.7m for a new urban Precincts and Partnerships Program and the formation of a new Cities and Suburbs Unit (CSU). I hope this is something that can help drive a Canberra Region City Partnership as a strategic longer term investment framework.
“It was disappointing to see funding for the AIS to upgrade its athlete residences, particularly to improve accessibility for para-athletes, appears to have been overlooked
“Once again, the ACT has missed out when it comes to receiving our fair share of National Partnership Payments. On a per capita basis we will receive $2,921.44 – dead last compared with other states and territories – while other jurisdictions receive between $7,523.44 (NT) and $2936.26 (NSW).
“We will also receive less than our fair share of the energy bill relief package.”
Summary of Budget Highlights
- Inflation is expected to fall to 3 ¼ per cent next year and wages growth is increasing so an early return to real wages growth in 2024 is very welcome.
- Up to $3bn in direct energy bill relief with 5 million eligible households get $500 deducted from their energy bills in the next financial year.
- $14.2m for the Australian National Botanic Garden for the Ian Potter Centre and the Seedbank
- $60m for Questacon
$7.5m for the ACT’s Sustainable Household Scheme
$535.3 million national cultural and collecting institutions, including $33 million to secure the long-term viability of the National Library’s Trove database.
- New National Security Office Precinct $3.1m over 4 years for the carpark
Establishment of a new $1.3bn Household Energy Upgrades Fund which includes $1bn for low-cost loans to improve energy efficiency by things like installing double glazing and solar panels for some 110,000 households and $300m invested with the states and territories to upgrade energy performance to 60,000 social homes
- The age threshold to receive the higher rate of Jobseeker will be lowered from 60 to 55 years old meaning those recipients receive an additional $92.10 per fortnight
- Build-to-Rent has been given a boost with changes to the withholding tax rate for Managed Investment Trust to create a level playing field
Increasing NHFIC’s cap by $2bn for the Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator from $5.5 billion to $7.5 billion, effective July 1 to provide more long-term low-cost finance to community housing providers.
- Expanding eligibility for the various home guarantee schemes
- A $200m plan to tackle disadvantage
- $8.7 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $2.2 million per year ongoing) to support the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee on an ongoing basis with secretariat and research support.
- $3.5 billion to triple the bulk billing incentive for the most common GP consultations for children under 16 years, pensioners and other Commonwealth concession card holders delivering free consultations for 11.6m eligible Australians
- $2.2bn for the PBS + delivering new 60 day dispensing for 300 medicines from September
- $219.4 million to extend public dental services. 360,000 adults on lower incomes will have continued access to public dental services.
- $98.2 million for new Medicare rebates for consultations of longer than 60 minutes
- $143.9 million for after-hours primary care
- $47.8 million for wound care
- $445.1 million to expand general practice
- $951.2 million for digital health
- $46.8 million to fund Medicare rebates for care provided by nurse practitioners
- $1.2 billion for community pharmacies
$586.9 million for improved mental health, including
500 additional postgraduate psychology places.
- 500 one-year internships for provisional psychologists.
- 500 additional postgraduate psychology places.
- Expanded services for more than 18,000 people with severe mental illness who are not in the NDIS and need psychosocial support.
- $502.2 million for stronger preventative health
$10.2 million for the Central Coordination of Disability Policy with the aim of complementing work to respond to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability;
- $3.7 million to undertake consultation and research for the National Autism Strategy;
- $3.2 million to the Complaints Resolution and Referral Service and the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline; and
- $1.2 million for the development of the National Roadmap to improve health and mental health of autistic people.
- $41 million through to 2025-26 to help strengthen the supported employment sector to provide people with disability and high support needs access a wider range of employment opportunities.
- New Centre for Disease Control - $91.1 million
$2bn for a new Hydrogen Head start program
Capacity Investment Scheme to unlock over $10bn investment in firmed-up renewable energy projects
$7.4m for Fuel Efficiency Standard
Govt has commissioned Jobs and Skills Australia to undertake a Clean Energy Capacity Study report by mid 2023
Net Zero Authority $83.2 million over 4 years
- And additional $30m over the forwards from the sunsetting of PHEVs
$200m for Disaster Ready Fund
$804.3m over 4 years on biosecurity
$121 million to establish Environment Protection Australia
$262.3 million to support our Commonwealth national parks
$92.8 million for urgent upgrades in the town of Mutitjulu within Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park
- $163.4 million to ensure the Australian Institute of Marine Science
- $4.4 million to establish the National Construction Industry Forum and will commence after July 2023
- $760,000 to support a review of modern awards, to be conducted by the Fair Work Commission
$286m for creative sector
An additional $112.3 million to attract international investment in the Australian screen industry
- $6.9 million over 4 years from 2023-24 for Ausfilm to continue to promote screen productions in Australia
300,000 fee-free TAFE places
- $3.7bn for new 5-year national skills agreement
- Cheaper childcare from 1 July
- $72.4 million in initiatives to support early educators
- $128.5 million to fund 4,000 additional university places over the next four years, to boost the number of graduates from STEM disciplines and support the AUKUS program.
$589.3 million for the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children
Includes $194 million for dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan and $11.8m for standalone First Nations National Plan for Family Safety including the establishment of a peak body
- $68.6m over 2 years to support the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services providers
- $72.4m for recruitments of more early childhood educators
- $14.8 m for a new Powering Australia Industry Growth Sector
- $392.4 million Industry Growth Program expand the pipeline of investment-ready projects for the National Reconstruction Fund
- $101.2 million over 5 years to grow critical tech industries starting with funding for Quantum and AI
$200m to develop “robust business cases for strategically significant projects” by replenishing the Major Projects Business Case Fund
$159.7m urban Precincts and Partnerships Program
$211.7m Thriving Suburbs Program
- A new Cities and Suburbs Unit (CSU) that can help drive a Canberra Region City Partnership
Aged care worker pay increase $11.3bn for 15% pay rise
$166.8m for additional 9,500 home care packages
$1.7m for interim First Nations Aged Care Commissioner
- $487m to extend and make ongoing Disability Support for Older Australians Program
$81.9 million to develop and implement a new Aged Care Act to support sector reform
$139.9 million to enhance the Star Rating system
- $12.9 million to improve food and nutrition in aged care
$64.1m to address claims backlog
$254.1 million to modernise and sustain ICT systems
Additional $4.8 billion in funding for veterans' compensation and support payments
- $0.5 million to expand the Defence, Veterans’ and Families’ Acute Support program to full-time grandparent carers.
an additional $132.1 million over four years to the eSafety Commissioner to improve safety online
$5 million to support the Australian Associated Press (AAP) newswire service while the News Media Assistance Program (News MAP) is developed
Five-year funding terms for ABC and SBS
- $10.9 million package to counter scams
A grant opportunity of $15.2 million to support the establishment of Y Careers agency
- $7.3 million to further reduce the number of people under the age of 65 living in residential aged care
Summary of Budget Lowlights
- The $4 billion surplus this year will be short-lived and will be followed by a $13.9bn deficit the following year.
- There will be a $40 per fortnight increase for JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy and other income support for 1.1 million people and cost $4.9bn. The EIAC recommended lifting the payment by $251.81 a fortnight so what has been offered isn’t enough to lift people out of poverty.
- The age threshold for children whose parent receives the Single Parenting Payment will increase from 8 to 14, but not to 16 as recommended and as it was originally implemented. Under the change 57,000 families will receive and additional $176.90 per fortnight.
- The Government will increase the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 15% providing up to an $31 extra per fortnight costing $2.7bn over 5 years and being accessed by 1.1 million households. This is less than recommended by EIAC. The average national rent is $662 a week and the new maximum CRA payment per week is $94.10
- Waiting 12 months to abolish ParentsNext from 1 July 2024 –is a long time to wait for a program found to be so punitive.
- NDIS Growth target of no more than 8 per cent agreed at National Capital is cause for concern.
- No re-instatement of cuts to funding for additional mental health services
- $20k instant asset write off (at a total cost of $290m) Temporarily increasing the instant asset write-off asset threshold to $20,000 for businesses with a turnover of up to $10 million, but only for one year.
- New Small Business Energy Incentive - $310 million in tax relief and support up to 3.8 million businesses electrify- but only for one year. A maximum $20k tax break per business for up to $100k total expenditure. Immediate deduction from 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2024.
- Help to adopt digital technologies.
- Up to $650 one-off energy bill relief for around 1 million small businesses.
- Cash flow relief for some 2.1 million eligible small businesses by reducing from 12 to 6 per cent increases in their quarterly tax instalments for GST and income tax
- Failure to spend 3 per cent of GDP on R&D (only spending 0.49%)
One single, solitary page on enviro measures out of a 72-page budget glossy
- Next-to-no new investment for threatened species
Failure to abolish the activity test