10 things you need to know about the budget10 May 2017
2016 co-editor of Farrago.
2016 co-editor of Farrago.
- The higher education sector will experience cuts
There were no surprises in the 2017 Federal Budget when it came to higher education funding, with the Coalition Government having already released their Higher Education Reform Package last week.
$2.8 billion will be cut from higher education funding and students are being asked to pay more for their degrees, with a 7.5 per cent increase in fees by 2021. In addition, students will have to start paying back their HECS debt when they are earning $42,000, down from $55,000.
However, Commonwealth Supported Places will be introduced for other university sub-bachelor programs such as diplomas, advanced diplomas and associated degree courses.
- The government is tackling the housing crisis
After ongoing debate early this year, the Government has announced that first-home buyers will indeed have the option of sacrificing part of their superannuation in order to buy a house, from 1 July 2018. The Government has titled this The First Home Super Savers Scheme.
Those taking advantage of the scheme will be limited to use $15,000 a year and $30,000 in total from their superannuation. Many have criticised the scheme and the Coalition Government’s refusal to touch negative gearing.
- Regional mental health services will be getting more funding
The Government claims they will use $9.1 million to improve access to mental health services in regional, rural and remote areas over the next four years. They will do this via telehealth, which refers to using information and communication technologies to overcome a patient’s distance.
$15 million will also be provided to support mental health research programs.
In addition, Lifeline will be able to strengthen its suicide prevention services with a further $2.1 million increase in funding.
- The Medicare freeze is thawing
The freeze on the indexation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule will be lifted. This means that a range of health services, including those accessed by university students, will continue to be subsidised by the Government.
They Government will also be reintroducing bulk billing for diagnostic imaging and pathology services.
There will be a 0.5 per cent Increase on the Medicare levy for those who earn over $20,000.
- Centrelink will be drug testing welfare recipients
Beginning on January 1 next year, people who claim Centrelink payments, including students on Youth Allowance, may be drug tested. Those who test positive for drug use, including marijuana, will be given a welfare card that limits their payments for up to two years.
5,000 people per year will be randomly drug tested in three undetermined locations around Australia. Those selected will not be informed that they are taking a drug test. Centrelink with send them a letter requesting a compulsory meeting.
Results will be drawn from saliva, urine and hair follicle tests.
If a person tests positive twice, they will be referred to a medical professional.
- A new demerit system might leave some without welfare
Centrelink will also introduce a demerit point system for all payments. People receiving payments will begin with no points on their “Personal Responsibility Phase” log, a system similar to a drivers license demerit point scheme.
Points will be accumulated if a person misses a Centrelink meeting or interview without providing a satisfactory excuse, along with other requirements.
If four demerit points are accumulated in six months, a person enters a three strike ‘Intense Compliance Phase’. One strike equals a 50 per cent reduction of fortnightly payments, two strikes equals 100% of fortnightly payments taken away for that fortnight, and a third strike cancels payments for one month.
This will save the Government $632 million over five years.
- There will be reforms to the media industry
The Australian media industry has in strife, which has prompted action from the Coalition in this year’s budget. Television licensing fees have been abolished, which will cost the government $130 million annually but will hopefully help reform the struggling industry. The two out of three and licensing reach rules will both be abolished, in an effort to allow business growth in the industry. The two out of three rule prevents any one company from owning more than two of the three major media sectors – newspaper, radio station, and television station – and the reach rule prevents a television station from owning enough licenses to reach more than 75 per cent of the population. These rules were designed to address Australia’s media concentration, which is one of the highest in the world.
- Climate change didn’t get a mention
People have taken to social media to express concerns over why climate change wasn’t mentioned in the Budget. Considered by most scientists to be one of the biggest issues of our time, many were hoping that the Government would take some form of action on the issue. However, the phrase “climate change” was not mentioned by Scott Morrison once. The Government did devote $30 million to research on the impacts of fracking “on water resources and other environmental assets”.
- Child sexual assault victims will be compensated
Payments of up to $150 000 will be available to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, under a new redress scheme to be introduced next year. This will be available to 3,000 victims who have been abused by authorities in Governmental institutions of Defence, Immigration, and Indigenous Affairs. Counselling will also be provided, as well as apologies from responsible organisations.
- The government is still obsessed with the plebiscite
The same-sex marriage plebiscite is still on the Government’s agenda. The Coalition will set aside $170 million for the plebiscite “as soon as the necessary legislation is enacted by the Parliament,” Budget Paper No. 1 reads.
The Coalition is standing firm on their stance that the only way Australia will see same-sex marriage enacted is through a plebiscite, a proposal which was swiftly knocked back by the Senate last year.