After a year ravaged by natural disasters and the pandemic, there has been much criticism last night of the federal budget unveiled by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Here is a summary of some of the concerns you may have missed in the relevant sectors.
The 2022-23 budget states that new students will receive $5,000 in cash for two years if they complete their education in areas where there is a staff shortage.
The National Education Union says public schools have fallen short in this year’s budget. The National Office of the Australian Education Union says $139 million will be taken from public schools in fiscal year 2022-23.
“Further analysis of the budget documents shows that the Morrison government has cut more than half a billion dollars in public schools,” AEU chief Correna Haythorpe said in a statement.
“Prime Minister Morrison’s blatant favoritism for the private school sector comes at a high cost to public schools and their students, staff and parents.”
Environment and health in rural areas
In light of the government’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, some were surprised by how little money was allocated to combat climate change.
Over five years, the government will spend $247 million on private sector investment in hydrogen, $148 million on regional microgrid projects and $50 million on gas infrastructure.
Retailers and health professionals alike criticized the lack of measures to deal with the impending ecological disaster.
“The next big global disruptor on our doorstep is climate change, and it’s playing out before our very eyes with the recent flooding in central Australia, NSW and Queensland,” said Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retailers Association.
“We have seen business take positive steps towards zero emissions, but this also needs to be supported by increased government action.”
Some funding was also announced for Commonwealth-supported rural medical schools, as well as for two new university departments focusing on rural health.
But without more money for environmental protection, Rob Phair, president of the Rural Doctors Association of Victoria, said new medical boosts in rural areas may not be good enough.
“There is almost no health condition that is not affected by the climate crisis that we are all facing, so it is difficult to overemphasize how fundamental this issue is. It will affect every aspect of healthcare,” said Dr Phair.
Given the staff shortage and inadequate training in aged care, the government pledged $49.5 million for more training and clinical placements.
However, aged care organisations, including Catholic Health Australia (CHA), called this funding a “band-aid” and expressed concern about low pay for aged care staff.
“The industry is struggling to attract and retain aged care workers because they are simply not being paid enough for the vital and demanding care role they play for the Australian community,” said Pat Garcia, CEO of CHA.
“Last night’s budget should have been an opportunity to implement real reforms to ensure sufficient and qualified staff to care for the increasing number of older Australians in need of care and support, but unfortunately they failed to do so.”
This year’s federal budget avoided major cuts to the main funding body for arts, the Australia Council. Funding for Indigenous arts, languages and repatriation work will also increase relative to projected estimates.
However, regional art funding will be cut from about $18 million to $7.5 million next year.
Screen Australia’s funding will decrease from $39.5 million to $27.8 million next year and $11.6 million the following year.
“This year’s budget continues a pattern of neglect and lack of vision of the arts by the Morrison administration,” Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance executive director Paul Murphy said in a statement.
“It is well documented that the arts and entertainment sectors have been devastated by the impact of COVID-19. Shows were cancelled, livelihoods were lost and countless workers left the industry.
“Is there no limit to this government’s contempt for artworks?”
The Morrison government has kept Australia’s humanitarian intake at a maximum of 13,750 people by 2022-23, down from the 2019-2020 target of 18,750.
However, an additional 16,500 humanitarian places will be offered to refugees from Afghanistan over the next four years.
Asylum seekers centers across Australia did not welcome these announcements. The Melborune-based Asylum Seeker Resource Center labeled the budget “another step backwards” for refugees.
“The additional humanitarian aid from Afghanistan, thanks to the tireless work of people from Afghanistan in Australia, is welcome,” said the center’s director, Kon Karapanagiotidis.
However, he added: “This budget will ensure that refugees with temporary visas are excluded from living expenses, not universal safety nets or permanent protection.
“Spending continues to be wasted on the chaotic, cruel and broken detention and offshore processing system.”