On Tuesday, May 11 Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivered the 2021-22 Federal Budget promising billions for economic recovery, but where is all that money going? OTR journalist Dani Bozoski breaks it down. (Image source: Herald Sun)

By Dani Bozoski | @danibozoski

“Australia is coming back.”

This was the promise of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday night before presenting the Coalition’s second pandemic focused budget.

“Team Australia”, as Mr Frydenberg put it, will begin to recover from the economic catastrophe of 2020 within this financial year.

“We are better placed than nearly any other country to meet the economic challenges that lie ahead,” Mr Frydenberg said.

But how will the latest budget affect young Australians and university students?

COVID-19 recovery

Following with the overarching theme of this year’s budget, Mr Frydenberg said, “Australia’s economic engine is roaring back to life…a plan that continues to protect Australians from COVID…this is what the Coalition stands for”.

  • Over 10 million low and middle income earners will benefit from a new tax cut. Individuals will receive up to $1080 and couples $2160.
  • A further $1.9 billion allocated for the rollout of vaccines.
  • $1.5 billion for COVID-related health services including testing and tracing, respiratory clinics, and telehealth.
  • In total, the Morrison government has committed $20 billion to the vaccine rollout.

Education

The educational focus of this budget is on improving participation from students, “lifting outcomes and better equipping teachers”. However, there is less of a focus on universities.

  • 2021 will see $23.4 billion pledged towards schools, with a total of $289 billion over the next ten years, with a focus on providing additional courses for domestic students.
  • There will be 5,000 Commonwealth supported short courses at higher education providers provided in 2021.

Health

In another point of priority, Mr Frydenberg said “in this budget, the government is providing record funding for schools, hospitals, Medicare, mental health, aged care and disability support”.

  • The Government is providing $878.7 million towards making medicine more accessible and affordable.
  • Under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Australians can access medicine $41.30 a script ($6.60 for concession card holders) instead of $6800 a year.
  • More funding will be put towards endometriosis, research into premature birth and higher quality genetic testing.
  • Over the next four years, Medicare is being updated through a $220 million scheme to ensure Australians have access to the newest available health services.
  • $13.2 billion over four years has been committed to support the NDIS and provide services, facilities, and aid to people “with significant and permanent disability”.
  • The states and territories are investing $122 billion into the NDIS and $17.9 million into early intervention support to young children with developmental concerns or disability.

Mental health

“Everybody here tonight knows someone struggling with mental health,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“We have nearly doubled spending on mental health since we came to office. It is at the heart of who we are as Australians”.

  • $2.3 billion will go towards improving and expanding services to make support accessible to everyone.
  • Funding will go towards services such as the new Head to Health Adult Mental Health centres, suicide prevention services expanded treatment options through new Medicare listings, support for vulnerable groups, and further developing the sector’s workforce and governance.

This pledge from the Coalition comes in response to advice from the Productivity Commission and National Suicide Prevention Adviser about the importance of improving mental health outcomes for Australians.

Business and jobs

  • The digital economy strategy will invest over $100 million into building the digital skills of Australians.
  • The growth of the Australian digital games development industry is being encouraged by providing eligible developers with a 30 per cent refundable tax offset.
  • $124.1 million will be put into boosting Australia’s research into artificial intelligence.
  • The budget will double the commitment to the JobTrainer Fund, creating 450,000 new training places used to upskill young job seekers.
  • $2.7 billion will create more than 170,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships, with a specialist program aiding for young Indigenous Australians.
  • For those searching for a job, just over $200 million will go towards the overhaul of the myGov system which will make it, “easier than ever for Australians to find the services they need”.
  • Incentives allowing business and employees to write off the “full value of any eligible asset” will be extended until June 2023.

Housing

  • The success of the HomeBuilder program has supported new jobs and seen over 120,000 Australians apply for the HomeBuilder grant, which is now expected to provide over $30 billion in residential construction.
  • The Government is providing 10,000 more places under the New Home Guarantee, specifically for first home buyers with a deposit of as little as five per cent.
  • From 1 July 2022, the number of voluntary contributions released under the First Home Super Saver Scheme will increase $30,000 to $50,000.

Women’s wellbeing

This year’s budget displays a large emphasis in support women who have experienced abuse, violence, and harassment. More money than ever before is also going towards the prevention of these matters.  

  • A $1.1 billion package has been promised, with financial support for women and their children leaving a “violent relationship”, emergency accommodation and assistance in navigating the legal system.
  • A further $129 million will support access of the justice system.
  • A $101.4 million increase in Children’s Contact Services.
  • The newly implemented Respect@Work Report will be provided with $20.5 million in prevention programs and research into sexual harassment.
  • $26.2 million will be put towards improving the safety of online spaces for women and children.
  • A further $1.7 billion will go towards child care, and the annual cap will be removed from 1 July 2022.
  • $42.4 million will go towards assisting women in pursuing STEM qualifications and will expand the National Careers Institute Partnership Grants program.
  • A further $10.3 million has been pledged to assist women experiencing family and domestic violence through the Temporary Visa Holder Payment Pilot.
  • The Government will invest $57.6 million to better support Indigenous women and children who have experienced or are experiencing family violence.

Overall, it seems universities and their students have missed out on a direct focus from the Government following a year that lacked international students and face-to-face classes.

However, Mr Frydenberg and the Coalition appear confident that we will soon see Australia “well on the road to recovery”.

If the promises of the budget are fulfilled, it can be expected that at least 250,000 new jobs will have been created by the 2022-23 financial year.