On 10th May 2023 Anthony Albanese’s government announced its second Budget. We take a brief look at the Australian budget highlights and main policies.
Australian budget 2023: the highlights
Unsurprisingly, the Australian budget announced this week was centred around a set of measures designed to combat the cost-of-living crisis while trying to contain inflation. The package was worth an estimated AUS$14.6 billion over four years and was designed to help those most in need.
Australian treasurer, Jim Chalmers, revealed a raft of measures to provide cost-of-living to help the most vulnerable Australians, an unexpected $5 billion Medicare boost, an increase in rental relief and clean energy measures.
The biggest surprise, however, was the announcement of the first Budget surplus since the global financial crisis. This amounted to $4.2 billion. Quite the revelation, given that the Albanese government predicted a $36.2 billion deficit in the October 2022 mini-Budget!
Analysts believe, however, that the surplus is a one-off that will be swiftly swallowed up by high debt repayments and rising expenditure on healthcare, care for the elderly and disability payments.
Australian budget 2023: the five foundations
The treasurer outlined five foundations on which the government is building a stronger and fairer economy. We have listed these below, along with the main policies aimed at achieving them.
To provide cost-of-living relief
Power bill relief – More than 5 million low-income households and small businesses will receive a one-off payment of $500 to help offset rising household energy costs. In addition, $1 billion will be invested in low-cost loans for certain eco-friendly home improvements.
Lower out-of-pocket health costs – $2.2 billion of investment has been ringfenced to increase access to medicines via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. 3.6 million Australians will benefit.
Supporting Australians doing it tough – Jobseeker recipients will receive $40 extra per fortnight as will certain other welfare recipients including those on Youth Allowance and Austudy. The age for receiving the higher single jobseeker payment has been reduced from 60 to 55. In addition, the single parenting payment can now be claimed until the youngest child turns 14, previously 8. This will mean an extra $176.90 a fortnight for 57,000 single-parent families.
More affordable housing – to address Australia’s housing crisis, Chalmers announced the biggest increase to the maximum payment of Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) in 30 years. The 15% rise will see certain recipients receive an extra $31 a fortnight. There will also be tax breaks for build-to-rent projects.
Action to keep wages moving – $11.3 billion pledged to fund a 15% increase in wages for more than 250,000 aged care workers.
To strengthen Medicare
$3.5 billion has been allocated towards helping GPs to provide free consultations to around 11.6 million eligible Australians. Funding was also announced to build 8 Urgent Care Clinics and $445 million to facilitate cooperation between doctors, nurses and allied care professionals.
To lay the foundations for growth
Making Australia a renewable energy superpower – an injection of $4 billion is earmarked to fund the shift to clean energy, including $2 billion in a Hydrogen Headstart Programme to establish Australia as a world leader in producing and exporting hydrogen power.
Investing in strategic industries – targeted investments in green industries and tech including funding to support the growth of quantum and AI and the manufacture of renewable technologies.
Investing in people and their skills – $3.7 billion dedicated to developing language, numeracy and digital skills.
Supporting small business – A suite of financial measures designed to help small businesses was revealed in the budget including energy price relief, a Small Business Energy Incentive and a $20,000 instant asset write-off.
To broaden opportunity
Women’s economic equality – the treasurer highlighted the government’s commitment to closing the gender pay gap and announced investments into the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children as well as $72.4 million to retain and recruit early childhood educators.
Addressing disadvantages in communities – $1.9 billion has been assigned to tackle First Nations’ health, housing, education, employment and other essential services as well as other community programmes to tackle entrenched disadvantage and intergenerational poverty.
To strengthen the Budget
Fiscal strategy – the government has returned 82% of the improvements in tax receipts to the Budget,, achieved $17.8 billion in savings and spending reprioritisations and limited annual growth in real payments to 0.6 per cent on average over 5 years.
As well as the budget surplus for 2022‑23 it has predicted smaller deficits over each year of the Budget estimates compared to the October Budget.
Sustainably funding government services – the treasurer pledged $1.8 billion for legacy health funding, $800 million to fund Australia’s biosecurity system, $1.9 billion to sustain relationships in the Pacific and $64.1 million to better fund services for veterans. Frequent travellers to and from Australia will have to pay an extra $10 each time they leave the country as the passenger movement charge will go up from $60 to $70 in July 2024.
Structural pressures – the main measures aimed at tackling structural challenges include tightening superannuation tax concessions for those with balances exceeding $3 million (30% tax rate for balances over that amount), a 15% global and domestic minimum tax for large multinational companies, changes to the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax, an increase in tobacco tax by 5% for 3 years and extending tax compliance programs.
An upbeat Budget highlighted positives such as high prices for exports, a strong, well-regulated banking system and low employment, 4% wage growth and lower than expected inflation. The government did concede however, that the next two years are expected to be the weakest in two decades for global growth with inflation the main challenge to be faced.
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