The Federal Budget is good so far as it goes. It’s more compassionate than what we’ve seen during the previous LNP government’s budgets and it delivers on Labor’s election promises. Highlights include improved access to early childhood education, expanded paid parental leave, reduced costs for medicines, greater spending on TAFE and big investments in clean energy infrastructure.
Regrettably though the Government’s headline reforms mask many problems. For instance the medical profession doubts the capacity exists to staff the Urgent Care Clinics. The claimed increase to funding for mental health is nonsense because it “will be largely met from within the existing resourcing of the Department of Health and Aged Care.” The increased funding for the tertiary sector is a fraction of what’s needed to reverse the cuts over the last decade or so. There’s no increase to Centrelink payments. And funding for the environment remains woeful.
Housing is a particularly worrying Budget deficiency. For a start it brings no immediate relief to Australians sleeping rough, nor to those struggling to pay their rent. Moreover there’s no mention of any extension to the National Rental Affordability Scheme, no increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance and no reform of investment property tax arrangements.
Tasmania has done okay out of the Budget and the funding for Hobart Airport is especially welcome. The Clark electorate is expected to enjoy a range of investments including Nyrstar ($50m) and Derwent River ferries and ferry terminals ($20m). Other election promises include 10 playground upgrades in Glenorchy ($1.5m), Derwent Estuary Program ($500,000), Hobart Community Shed ($260,000), Multicultural Council of Tasmania Multicultural Hub ($100,000), Australian Italian Culture and Community Centre ($37,500) and an Urgent Care Centre.
This Budget is of course a mini-budget. The main event is next May when the Government needs to clearly blueprint its agenda and address the shortfalls in this Budget, especially for Tasmania where big projects like the Macquarie Point Science and Antarctic Precinct need to be addressed.