<p>The 2019 Federal Budget was announced on April 2, setting the tone for the Federal Election set on May 18. Finding the budget paper too long? Here are the highlights.</p>
The 2019 Federal Budget was announced on April 2, setting the tone for the Federal Election set on May 18. Taxpayers are set to benefit, with both the current Coalition government and Labor opposition in favour of a tax offset to be introduced this financial year. The Coalition placed major focus on low- to middle- income taxpayers, infrastructure, and health, while Labor’s budget reply speech criticised the budget’s lack of urgency in addressing rising costs-of-living, climate change, and cuts to school and hospital funding.
Finding the budget paper too long? Here are the highlights.
In the name of creating “a world-class higher education system”, the Coalition government announced investment of $17.7 billion into university sector, with the amount expected to rise to over $20 billion by 2024. It also agreed to offer a two-year funding of $5 million dollars to the University of Melbourne’s Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory construction project.
Following its support for regional students in last year’s budget, this year the Coalition government has promised $93.7 million of scholarships for students studying in regional campuses in the coming four years, for either university or vocational education sectors.
The Coalition has also introduced a $62.4 million project focusing on the development of literacy, numeracy, digital abilities and other foundational skills, with remote Indigenous communities prioritised in the implementation of the project.
In the budget response speech, Labor proposed an extra 200,000 university places to be opened for Australians. Also announced were $200 million for a ‘Rebuilding TAFE Fund’, which would focus on TAFE campuses in regional and suburban areas.
For students who are on Newstart or Youth Allowance, there will be no increase under the Coalition. Instead, the Coalition will invest in new technology for recipients of welfare, which will automatically report income, rather than individual calculations and reports. This is estimated to save $2.1 billion over five years.
Transport and Infrastructure
A core focus of this year’s budget, the Coalition announced that $100 billion has been allocated to upgrading infrastructure over the next 10 years. In Victoria, a further $2 billion has been allocated for rail upgrades between Geelong and Melbourne, and $500 million for additional commuter car parks at stations to ease traffic congestion.
For the Northern Territory, more than $200 million has been promised to upgrade Kakadu’s infrastructure and roads. Jabiru, the location of the biggest employer in the region, the Ranger Uranium Mine, is set to close in 2021. The funding will be aimed toward creating infrastructure to encourage more tourism, which will aim to keep the economy of the town functioning. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, however, did not specify when the Northern Territory would receive this funding.
Labor leader Bill Shorten announced his party’s intent to deliver transport plans in “every state and territory,” by upgrading metro and rail in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as a cross-river rail in Brisbane, further works on the ACT light rail, as well as upgrading infrastructure in Kakadu and the Northern Territory.
Key in this year’s budget was a tax offset to middle and lower income brackets, which the Coalition announced would come into effect this financial year if re-elected. Labor was supportive of the tax offsets in their budget response.
Single-income households would be eligible for a $1,080 offset, double what was promised in last years budget, and families with two incomes would receive up to $2,160. While ten million Australians would be eligible to benefit from the $159 billion in additional tax relief, only around 4.5 million Australians would see the full amount.
Tax rates will also be reduced. Taxpayers earning between $45,000 and $200,000—roughly 94 per cent of Australians—could have their rate reduced from 32.4 per cent per dollar to 30 per cent per dollar.
In his budget reply, Bill Shorten favoured the tax offset announced by the Coalition but announced that Labor is planning to further extend the tax relief for Australians who earn below $40,000. He also announced Labor is not in support of flattening the tax rate like the Coalition is.
People with disabilities and mental health
The government is delivering a $1.1 billion ‘Strengthening Primary Care’ package. The package includes $448 million in increased funding to enhance the care and services GPs provide to high-need patients, and $187 million to increase the patient rebate for a further 119 GP items on the Medicare Benefits Scheme from 1 July 2019.
In ensure critical research has long-term funding certainty, the Coalition has announced the investment of $5 billion through the ‘Medical Research Future Fund Ten Year Investment Plan’.
In addition, the government has announced $737 million over seven years to deliver more services for people living with mental illness, including $461 million for youth mental health and suicide prevention.
The money will be going towards a variety of mental health programs. $111 million is being provided for 30 new Headspace services by 2021 to support young people, and there will be another $152 million to reduce waiting lists for Headspace services. The Early Psychosis Youth Services program will be extended for two years with the $110 million set aside in the budget, and the government is hoping to trial eight adult mental health centres with $115 million. There will also be $54 million over the next six years to establish four specialist residential facilities for people with eating disorders.
Labor criticised the freeze on National Disability Insurance Scheme staffing under the Coalition government. Announcing a plan to add $2.3 billion of funding toward cancer research and treatment over its first four years in office, Labor plans on covering the costs of millions of appointments and reduce the price of medicine.
Jobs and Skills
The Coalition has also announced a Skills Package of $525 million, aimed at improving vocational education and increasing the number of apprentices. 80,000 apprenticeships will be funded by $156.3 million of this package, and incentive payments of $8,000 will be given to employers. Apprentices will also receive $2,000 if they choose to undertake training in areas listed as a ‘priority’ skill for Australia.
In line with the Coalition, Shorten also proposed funding to increase vocational training, and to “reinvigorate jobs in the construction sector”. To do so, Labor aims to allocate further funding for TAFE in conjunction with renovations of campus buildings. This would create 150,000 new apprenticeships, as well as specific support for older Australians wanting to learn a new trade or skill set. Labor also intends to use plans for infrastructure to further vocational and apprenticeship training.
With the Federal Election announced for 18 May, this budget will be in the hands of the voters. Keep an eye out for further coverage from Farrago on this crucial election.