In essence this year’s federal budget does very little for most Australians. The big ticket items, which were already leaked and discussed in various forums online and in mainstream media, appear to be great but the devil is always in the detail.
Unfortunately, those that have will have a direct impact on you, like making childcare more affordable, won’t start until July 2022, well after the next federal election. There has been an increase in funding for women’s services and initiatives to support women, but it fails to make up for funding cuts over recent years to refuges and programs aimed at supporting women fleeing domestic violence.
Then there’s the sad, yet very expensive, efforts at addressing domestic violence through the production of so-called educational videos aimed at young people; we all know those terrible videos about milkshakes and tacos.
It is pleasing to note that the government will not stand in the way of the legislated increase to superannuation contributions and people on low incomes will no longer need to meet the $450 per month threshold to get superannuation. The threshold disproportionately affects women, who are often employed on low hour part time contracts. This is a small step towards closing the super pay gap, but there is a lot more work to be done. Yet when it comes to structural change, the budget contained no new money to extend paid parental leave and the government rejected a recommendation from a recent income retirement review that superannuation be paid while women are taking paid maternity leave.
For a budget that has been touted as the women’s budget, there is little for women to celebrate as male-dominated industries continue to receive the largest slices of the budget pie.
The federal budget also does very little to address major structural issues in our economy, like the growing levels of under-employment and the increasing level of insecure work.
Earlier this year, the federal government again joined with employer groups to demand that the minimum wage be increased by a paltry amount which doesn’t deliver the wage people need to live on. Recent surveys of the rental market demonstrate that people on the minimum wage are not able to afford most rental properties.
We now know that a major contributing factor for failures in our hotel quarantine system; and why there were so many outbreaks in federally run aged-care facilities is in large part due to insecure work, which forces people to work multiple jobs. We also know that women are disproportionately in insecure work for a range of reasons, which means they are not able to plan for their future and will end up with significantly less in their superannuation account when they retire. Then there’s the ending of various support payments linked to addressing the pandemic, which will create poverty and further increase inequity in Australia.
There has been little spending put towards addressing the drivers of climate change and instead the Morrison government invests in mitigation and mythical carbon capture and storage projects. There are yet to be any carbon capture and storage projects that have been successful at the scale needed, which begs the question why aren’t we investing in addressing the drivers of climate change? Investment in sustainable, renewable energy and moving the economy away from reliance on fossil fuels is a far better use of our taxes than trying to mitigate the impacts of climate change. I’m reminded of the adage about finding a cure is better than treating the symptoms. There was nothing in the budget to address the need to have a nationally coordinated plan to address the health impacts of climate change, something the Union has been advocating along with a broad coalition of health organisations and health unions through the Climate and Health Alliance. The budget will continue with the ludicrous so-called gas lead recovery rather than investing in a green new approach, which is why the Union is supporting the Student Strike for Climate on 21 May.
The federal budget is delivering a significant amount of additional funding for healthcare. As expected, the lion’s share of health-related funding will go to the aged care sector. This comes as no surprise given the disastrous outcomes within in aged care during the height of the pandemic and the very serious issues highlighted in the Royal Commission. Commentators and people within the aged care sector will undoubtedly spend a great deal of time unpacking and debating the funding delivered to aged care but early analysis suggests it is inadequate and won’t address the structural issues outlined in the Royal Commission.
There has been additional funding put into mental health but it is not nearly enough to address the structural issues in mental health care. While there are laudable initiatives outlined in the budget, they are not going to address the bigger issues around ensuring fair and equitable access to mental health care for all Australians; does little to enhance telehealth services despite the headline numbers; and fails to address the systemic workforce issues by ensuring access to psychologists or encouraging people into such career paths.
There is little to celebrate from the budget for scientists, dieticians, audiologists, physicists or pharmacists. Despite the Treasurer talking up the investment in hospitals, there has been a cut in public health spending. While admitting there are critical workforce shortages across the health care sector, the Morrison government provides no initiatives or incentives to address them.
Overall, it is a disappointing budget that does little to improve our daily lives, does little to address that wages in real terms are shrinking, and fails to properly address the huge challenges our nation faces for the future; it is just more band-aids to cover over the other band-aids. This year’s federal budget is indicative of the fact that the Morrison government is all spin and no substance.
Next week the Victorian State budget will be released, which we hope will address health care in a more substantive way than the Morrison government’s budget. We’ll be sure to provide members with our analysis.