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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

What’s in the budget for you?

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Farmers, regional universities, and people needing to access aged care facilities have all seen benefit from last night’s budget while the ABC, TAFE, schools and overseas aid have been cut.

As always with federal budgets, the devil is in the detail. Lucky for you we have combed through myriad commentaries to find out what really matters: will you get anything out of the budget?

It’s thumbs down if you are a pensioner, a school or TAFE student and if you need specialist or public hospital treatment.

Losers

Richmond MP Justine Elliot (ALP) has condemned government cuts in these sectors, including: cutting the energy supplement, costing pensioners $14 a fortnight, and forcing people to keep working until they are 70; cutting $17 billion from schools, and $270 million from TAFE; plus a freeze on specialist rebates and no funding to improve hospital waiting times.

‘Labor will back the personal income tax measures that begin on July 1 this year because we know middle class and working class people are struggling with the cost of living. This modest tax relief doesn’t make up for the massive cost of living increases under Malcolm Turnbull and the Nationals, or the cuts to penalty rates of up to $77 a week,’ she said.

‘Most of this package is off in the never-never – it’s a hoax for Mr Turnbull to tell people they have to vote for him at least two more times before they get tax relief in 2024.

‘Funding just 14,000 new in-home aged care packages over four years is another cruel hoax, with funding being cut from residential aged care to pay for it. There are still 100,000 people on Turnbull’s waiting list for in-home care,’ Ms Elliot said.

Winners

But Page MP Kevin Hogan said the local community was a winner from this year’s budget with money put back into family budgets, the creation of more jobs, a guarantee of essential services and more money for regional infrastructure.

By far the biggest ticket infrastructure item for the North Coast, weighing in at almost $1 billion, is the much-needed Coffs Harbour Bypass.

‘The tax relief for low to middle income earners will help …almost 60,000 taxpayers in our community,’ Mr Hogan said.

He added the government was also providing skills programs for workers over 45, allowing people on the age pension to keep more of what they earn, extending the Pension Loans Scheme, and allowing recent retirees to make further superannuation contributions.

‘I am also very happy that we are increasing the Child Care Subsidy from around 72 percent to 85 percent [and] removing the $7,613 annual rebate cap. These changes will directly help the 5,317 families in our community.

He added the controversial National Energy Guarantee, ‘will also help families by lowering household bills by around $120 a year over the next decade’.

Regional unis

It’s thumbs up if you go to a regional university.

Southern Cross University has played a key role in advocating for a deal for regional Australians and the $96 million awarded to regional universities in last night’s budget showed the federal government had listened, according to Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker.

Key measures promised in the 2018 budget include: $12 million already announced for places at SCU’s Coffs Harbour campus; $28.2 million over four years for enabling courses to prepare people for universities; $14 million over four years for an additional 185 commencing students in 2019, rising to an additional 500 regional students in 2022; $1.9 billion over 12 years for research infrastructure; and additional funding for 2,300 students by increasing the parental income threshold for the Youth Allowance for Regional Students.

Worst off even worse off

The St Vincent de Paul Society says this year’s budget locks in future spending cuts and leaves people on the lowest incomes worse off.

‘If you’re locked out of a job or in an insecure job, this Budget doesn’t even bring home the two-minute noodles,’ said Dr John Falzon, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council.

‘Cuts to income tax and company taxes erode the progressive nature of our tax system and punch a massive hole in government revenue. These cuts will inevitably lead to more spending cuts to essential services, meaning more out-of-pocket expenses for low and middle-income earners.’

‘This is an irresponsible budget that will leave unemployed people, underemployed people, students and those struggling to pay high housing costs worse off,’ said Dr Falzon.

‘Critically, the budget has failed to lift unemployment payments, nor is there any action to address homelessness and Australia’s housing affordability crisis.’

Councils

Councils are relieved that the federal budget has left local government funding untouched with funding in key programs such as Financial Assistance Grants and Roads to Recovery to continue at current levels.

The budget also provides for a continuation of the Bridges Renewal Program, the Black Spot Program, the Building Better Regions Fund and Safer Communities Fund.

Rural health

New funding to attract more doctors to country areas has been welcomed by the National Rural Health Alliance, Australia’s peak body for rural and remote health.

‘We are pleased tonight’s federal budget allocates $550 million over 10 years to help fill the health workforce gaps that exist in so many parts of country Australia,’ said Alliance CEO Mark Diamond.

But he noted there was only a very small increase in funding for Indigenous health.

‘Overall the Budget allocated an extra $338.1 million in mental health funding. Suicide prevention is a key focus. Particular mention was made of men over 85 years old having the highest risk of suicide, with $82.5 million earmarked for psychological services in residential aged care. Previously residents have not had access to government supported psych services,’ Mr Diamond said.

Farmers

Farmers aren’t exactly crowing but they are happy about some elements of the budget.

A new $6.6 million allocation for established pest and weeds will certainly not go astray, according to NSW Farmers’ President, Derek Schoen.

‘We’re also pleased to see $260 million commitment to improve GPS and satellite imagery, but disappointed there is no new commitment to further address mobile black spots,’ he added.

Farmers will also benefit from an extension to the $20,000 asset write-off for small businesses and further investment in rural health and education.

Overseas aid

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke said the federal budget had kept the aid budget roughly in line with inflation at $4 billion, equating to just 22 cents in every $100 of gross national income. The budget also maintains the freeze put in place last year on future aid increases.

‘This budget freeze represents a further chilling of the government’s attitude towards aid – over the next four years of the forward estimates, it equates to a new cut to aid of $141m, bringing total cuts to $444 million,’ Dr Szoke said.

Elder abuse

The Law Council has welcomed the $22m federal budget commitment to protect vulnerable Australians from elder abuse but added that funding for the courts, and significant new funding for legal aid, are still required to ensure that Australians receive the access to justice they deserve.

 


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1 COMMENT

  1. The government said on radio national that they have moved 120,000 people from newstart, disability support pension and parenting payments into work – in the last two years. Given there are more than 700,000 people on newstart alone, they have assisted way less than 10% of unemployed people into work, and left way more to rot on unfair (unliveable) levels of income whilst the government, by its own statements, has been completely unable to create an economy that is inclusive of those people. That is a clear demonstration of a government policy to punish people for being locked out of the job market, and the government’s statements on radio national demonstrate clearly that this is deliberate on the part of the government. Now even John Howard, the original architect of the policy to freeze newstart payments and thereby create this process of deliberate economic hardship, recognises that the level of newstart payments needs to be raised – and, based on history, he is only saying this out out of concern for the overall economy, not the people trapped in poverty. But still this heartless government persists.

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