By: Mike Crooks
The Government is reaching out to those “most in need”.
The rising cost of living in Australia, particularly for those who have already been struggling, is one of the targets for the Albanese Government’s 2023-24 Budget.
The Budget, which was handed down this month in Canberra, “provides cost‑of‑living relief that is responsible and affordable and prioritises those most in need,” Treasurer Jim Chalmers said in his budget speech in Parliament House.
Mr Chalmers has forecast a $4.2 billion surplus for 2022-23, the first surplus in 15 years. Though it is expected the next few budgets will be in the red.
Cost of living
As inflation and higher interest rates have raised the cost of living across the board, many Australians are feeling the pinch.
But there are some doing it tougher than others.
As part of a $14.6 billion relief package, eligible single parents will now receive a single parenting payment of $922 a fortnight (rather than the lower jobseeker payment) until their youngest child turns 14. Previously the age cap for the youngest child was 8 years old.
The Government has also lowered the age threshold to 55 for older long-term unemployed Australians to receive a higher rate of Jobseeker. It provides a boost of $92 a fortnight.
The package also includes a $1.5 billion electricity bill relief. About 5.5 million households and 1 million small businesses “will be eligible for some energy bill relief worth several hundred dollars,” Mr Chalmers previously said.
Eligibility involves whether the relevant household or business is already receiving government welfare.
“We hope and we expect that it will take some of the sting out of these price rises, which are putting pressure on families, households and small businesses,” Mr Chalmers said.
Rent and housing
The Labor Government is increasing the maximum rates of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 15 per cent. This is at a cost of $2.7 billion over 5 years.
“Around 1.1 million households receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance will be better off,” read the budget statement.
The Government will also increase the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation‘s liability cap by $2 billion.
“While Mission Australia welcomes several new Budget measures that aim to boost social and affordable housing supply, they’re only small steps towards ending homelessness.”– Sharon Callister, Mission Australia CEO
This is aimed to drive more lending to community housing providers for social and affordable housing projects.
For Mission Australia’s CEO Sharon Callister, the measure is a positive step, but she says more can be done.
“While Mission Australia welcomes several new Budget measures that aim to boost social and affordable housing supply, they’re only small steps towards ending homelessness amidst Australia’s escalating housing emergency which is forcing too many individuals and families into homelessness,” Ms Callister said.
The budget aims to strengthen Medicare and to encourage more bulk billing in both city and rural areas.
At a cost of $3.5 billion, the Government “is tripling the incentive paid to GPs to bulk bill consultations for families with children under 16 years, pensioners and Commonwealth concession card holders,” the budget statement read.
And as previously announced, changes to pharmacy rules mean that people will be able to buy two months’ worth of certain medications on a single prescription.
It is expected people could save up to $180 a year through the measure.
It is aimed at helping people with chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, heart disease and hypertension, all of which require ongoing medication.
But according to reports, the measure will cost pharmacies around $170,000 each year.
“I’m all for cost-of-living relief and a cost-of-living measure but this, unfortunately, is just smoke and mirrors,” Pharmacy Guild of Australia president Trent Twomey previously told ABC-TV.
In a tax that was announced earlier this year, the tax rate for earnings of superannuation balances above $3 million will be 30 per cent.
This will affect about 70,000 wealthy Australians and is expected to raise nearly $1 billion over five years.
Lower childcare costs will begin flowing to parents from the new financial year.
“From July this year, the Government is delivering cheaper childcare, cutting the cost of care for around 1.2 million families,” a Government statement read.
The aim is to provide families earning up to $80,000 a year a childcare subsidy (CCS) rate of 90 per cent.
According to the Government, this will make it easier for parents and carers to participate in the workforce.
For families earning over $80,000 the CCS rate “tapers down until it reaches zero per cent for families earning $350,000,” the Government previously said.
According to the ABC, a “typical” family earning around $120,000 with a child in care three days a week will save about $1,700 a year.
Tobacco and vaping
The Government is funding a program to fight the spread of vaping (e-cigarettes) and to further reduce smoking.
This includes a $63.4 million public information campaign.
The Government is also “proposing” to crack down on the selling of illegal vaping products in convenience stores and to implement new controls on their “importation, contents and packaging”.
Tobacco taxes will rise 5 per cent every year for three years, raising more than $3.3 billion.
People transforming their homes into more environmentally focused dwellings will be eligible to apply for low-interest loans.
This includes for installing solar panels, installing double glazing windows, and purchasing energy-efficient appliances.
“In all our decisions, we seek to strike a considered, methodical balance,” Treasurer Chalmers said in his budget speech.
“Between spending restraint to keep the pressure off inflation, while doing what we can to help people struggling to make ends meet.”