There are big announcements in this budget – from $17.7 billion to aged care, to $2 billion for mental health and an additional $15 billion for infrastructure projects.
But announcements from this Government don’t always mean real benefits on the ground – especially with no federal integrity commission in sight.
I’ll be working through these budget papers line by line and consulting with the people of Indi before issuing a formal budget reply at the end of the month.
The Government has made significant progress in delivering on the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care.
$17.7 billion over 5 years is commendable, but it still falls short. The aged care sector has called for $10 billion each year to fully implement the recommendations. This announcement is nowhere close.
I’m pleased to see the Government commit to deliver 80,000 additional home care packages over the next two years. I’ve been calling for the Government to act on home care packages since the day I stepped into Parliament.
I also welcome measures to ensure 200 minutes of care per aged care resident per day including 40 minutes with a registered nurse, an additional $10 per bed per day to be paid to aged care providers, and a new star rating system.
Some measures are encouraging but scant on detail, like the $630.2 million to improve access quality aged care in regional Australia. The package also does not include funding for Multi-Purpose Services like those in Corryong and Alpine which the Royal Commission recommended should be funded.
I’ll also be watching closely to make sure the Government’s commitment to deploy an additional 33,000 aged care workers reaches Indi.
I welcome the $250 million expansion of the Building Better Regions Fund. We’ve seen the BBRF fund gamechanging projects like the Beechworth-Yackandandah rail trail and the Lake Hume foreshore redevelopment.
There are over half a billion dollars’ worth of shovel-ready projects in Indi that could be funded through the BBRF, from the Benalla-Whitfield Rd upgrade, to the Bonegilla township development and Junction Place Hotel.
But without a broader strategy for regional Australia, BBRF funding is piecemeal investment. Cash on the table is good but we will get more value for money if it addresses regional needs.
You only need to look at the two year delay on the McKoy Street overpass in Wodonga to see that the Government has a history of making announcements that don’t deliver on the ground.
There’s also an additional $130.4 million for the Regional Connectivity Program. Indi secured $2.6 million under this program to fund the new telecommunications link across Alpine and Wangaratta which will deliver faster and more affordable NBN connections in the region.
I’ll be working with communities again to identify priority NBN and mobile blackspot projects that need funding right away, and ensure we put the best projects forward.
This Budget allocates $2 billion to mental health initiatives. This is welcome. Most importantly, there are measures to provide care for people following a suicide attempt.
The package includes a range of measures from prevention to treatment, but none that specifically target the higher burden of mental health problems in regional Australia.
With bushfires, border closures and the isolation of COVID, rural and regional communities have a stronger need than ever for access to affordable, local quality mental health services and the workforce to make that a reality.
It’s disappointing to see the Government has not addressed the acute shortage of housing supply in regional Victoria.
Many small businesses I speak to are under immense pressure because they cannot attract new workers to town, simply because there is nowhere for them to live.
Long term residents in the larger towns of Wangaratta, Wodonga and Benalla are finding it impossible to find a house.
The housing budget announcements do not solve the underlying issue – affordable housing supply. For instance, the Family Home Guarantee will only help a handful of middle-income families enter a hugely expensive housing market.
I welcome the additional funding to states and territories to continue the equal remuneration order, which secures over 500 mostly female-occupied jobs in the homeless and housing sector. Last week I wrote to Minister for Housing Sukkar about this specific issue.
Women’s Health, Safety and Economic Security
The Government has heard the call for better funding for women’s safety. The $1.1 billion package will improve women’s access to critical family violence and legal services like the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service.
I am disappointed that the women’s economic security statement is almost entirely made up of the childcare subsidy. Childcare isn’t just a women’s issue and this response doesn’t reflect the diversity of women’s economic needs beyond childcare.
Income Tax Cuts
There are two income tax measures in this budget – one that makes sense for Indi, and one that is totally out of touch.
The low- and middle-income tax offset will see workers who earn under $126,000 per year receive up to $1080 in tax relief at tax time. This will benefit more than 80 per cent of constituents in Indi. This is welcome.
The Stage Three Tax Cuts scheduled on the other hand will only go to workers earning over $180,000 per year. Less than 2 per cent of the electorate will benefit from these cuts. This policy gives no thought to the people of Indi and means less money to spend on things that matter to us.
National Recovery and Resilience Agency
I’m pleased to see the Government will commit over $600 million to establish a permanent National Recovery and Resilience Agency.
The NRRA will administer a new $280 million fund for long term recovery projects in communities affected by the horrific bushfires in 2019-20.
The Government has all but abandoned its proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission in the budget – $0 and 0 staff.
The Prime Minister is kicking the integrity can down the road at a time when billions are going out the door in the lead up to an election. This is simply unacceptable.
I’m working with Senate colleagues to tell the government time’s up – no more delays, no more consultation. It’s time to deliver on a promise made almost 1000 days ago.
One silver lining is an additional $60 million to the Auditor General, the watchdog that exposed the sports rorts scandal and dodgy Western Sydney Airport land deal.
This funding is welcome, but it’s a drop in the ocean. Given its critical role in our democracy and the integrity of government spending, the Auditor General’s role should not be in doubt.
Indi Budget Response
Later this week, I’ll launch a budget survey asking constituents what they think of tonight’s announcements and will meet with the Prime Minister and Ministers to raise their concerns.