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Big-spending Budget targets jobs, infrastructure, aged care and mental health

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Australia will splash cash on roads, rail and training in a federal budget designed to create a quarter of a million jobs over the next two years, with the Morrison government also spending billions to address critical shortfalls in government services including aged care, disability and mental health.

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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivered his second coronavirus-era budget on Tuesday and third since his elevation to the role.

“This pandemic is not over. For as long as the virus persists, so will we,” he told parliament.

More than $15 billion over 10 years has been added to road, rail and other infrastructure projects designed to support 30,000 direct and indirect jobs.

An extra $2.7 billion will be spent on wage subsidies for apprentices and trainees, alongside $500 million for courses targeting young people, school leavers and the unemployed.

The JobTrainer scheme will be expanded after the centrepiece of the October budget – a hiring credit for people under 35 – flopped with just 1100 of the 450,000 promised jobs supported.

“Jobs are coming back. The economy is coming back. Australia is coming back,” Frydenberg said.

“And this budget will ensure we come back even stronger, securing Australia’s recovery.”

A massive $17.7 billion aged care package is designed to address neglect in the ailing sector after a damning royal commission report.

The new funding model will start in October next year and is expected to deliver 80,000 home care packages and almost 34,000 training places to boost the aged care workforce.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme will receive an extra $13.2 billion over four years, with demand attributed to increased participant numbers and higher-than-expected costs.

An additional $2.3 billion will be spent during the same period on mental health targeting suicide prevention, expanded services, workforce needs and new treatment centres.

The budget also confirms an extended tax break for low and middle-income earners worth up to $1080 a year for workers at a cost of $7.8 billion to the bottom line.

Business are also in line for tax relief with eligible asset purchases allowed to be fully written off until mid-2023.

Firms worth under $5 billion will also be allowed to recoup tax previously paid on profits using losses in 2022/23.

Companies who develop patented medical and biotechnology innovations will be taxed at 17 per cent – almost half the highest company rate – on profits stemming from that product.

After coming under immense pressure over treatment of women, the coalition government will spend $3.4 billion on safety, economic security and health.

A further $1.1 billion will be poured into helping women escape violent relationships, prevention and frontline services, while $351 million will flow to health.

The budget confirmed $1.7 billion towards increased childcare subsidies for families with two or more kids under five.

Parents will have access to at least 15 hours of early childhood education for their children in the year before they start school.

A range of measures aiming to boost first home ownership of new dwellings were also confirmed along with regional spending targeting biosecurity, disaster resilience and project grants.

Budget papers reveal an improved deficit of $106.6 billion which is predicted to fall to $57 billion in 2023/24.

Net debt is predicted to hit almost $1.2 trillion in 2024/25.

Unemployment is expected to fall to 4.75 per cent in 2022/23, which would reach the treasurer’s trigger for beginning budget repair.

For the current financial year, Frydenberg predicts a deficit of $161 billion, compared to the $197.7 billion forecast in the mid-year budget review released in December.

The economy is tipped to grow by 4.25 per cent next financial year before easing to 2.5 per cent in the following period.

“Australia’s economic engine is roaring back to life,” Frydenberg said.

Vaccine funding will also receive a boost with a population-wide program assumed to be likely in place by the end of this year.

That would require a major expansion of the rollout which has been plagued by sluggish jab numbers.

-AAP

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