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The 2021 Budget: An Overview

NIKITA BYRNES | NEWS



On Tuesday May 11th, Australia’s Treasurer for 2021 delivered the Coalition government’s Federal Budget for 2021-22. Nikita Byrnes runs you through all the important details about the Federal Budget.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

EDUCATION

$1.6 billion on preschools. $26.1 million for non-university short course providers. $9.4 million in grants for private English-language providers. $19 billion for universities. The first budget paper lists $53.6 million to “support Australian education providers most reliant on international students,” but it is unclear what specific institutions are being supported.

HEALTH

Approx. $700 million towards new Medicare health services. Additional $13.2billion towards the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme).

MENTAL HEALTH

More than $2 billion towards prevention and treatment of mental illness. This will go towards: new adult mental health centres, Headspace funding, child mental health and wellbeing hubs, supporting parents with children who deal with mental health issues, and new suicide prevention and care plans.

WOMEN’S SAFETY

$3.4 billion towards women’s safety. $200 million of this for frontline domestic violence services. $129 million for women’s legal centres. $26 million for Indigenous Australians experiencing family violence. $29 million towards measures that support migrant and refugee women experiencing domestic or family violence. $33 million toward educating young Australians about respectful relationships and addressing online harm.

TAX CUTS

Approx. 10 million people will receive the proposed $1080 in tax cuts. The tax cuts will only run for one year.

ENVIRONMENT

$1.2 billion towards low emissions technology, such as carbon capture technologies and regional hydrogen hubs. $1.2 billion towards improving Australia’s response to natural disasters. No money towards renewable energies, except for $30 million towards a battery and microgrid project in the Northern Territory.

Sources: The Daily Aus and the Federal Budget Paper No. 1.



As The Guardian headline so accurately described: “Universities have been left to bleed in the Federal Budget.”


The Federal Budget states that: “Expenses under the higher education sub-function are expected to decrease by 8.3 per cent in real terms from 2020-21 to 2021-22, and decrease by 9.3 per cent in real terms from 2021-22 to 2024-25.”


Gayle Tierney, Victoria’s minister for higher education, wrote in a Twitter thread the day following the publication of the Federal Budget that the government has “failed to support universities in the Federal Budget” and is “deliberately ignor[ing] TAFE and public providers.”


During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in Australia, and following its slow descent in infection rates, approximately 13% of Australia’s pre-Covid-19 university workforce has lost their jobs.


The shock to the higher education’s funding structure seems antagonistic and even paradoxical considering the Liberals’ university fee hikes campaign of 2020. The campaign was predicated on introducing an extra 39,000 student places over the next couple of years, and encouraging students to study subjects and degrees that will make them “job ready” in industry sectors such as education, health, and STEM. These are, apparently, where jobs are “most needed” in the future.


So why, almost a year later, is university funding getting cut by 10%, and TAFE funding by 24%, if the government is upping fees to Humanities and Arts courses in an attempt to direct Australia into a more “job ready” future?


These controversial budget cuts have been interpreted as both detrimental and positive.


According to Deloitte Australia, an international economic analysis and advisory firm, the funding to non-university education providers (such as short course providers and private English-language providers) is expected to project a series of “flow-on effects to public universities.”


Deloitte writes that because international students have historically used private tertiary course providers as pathways for gaining access to mainstream public universities, the government’s increased support for “non-university providers may help protect this critical pipeline into the university system.” However, it is unclear whether these ‘pathways’ really exist. Deloitte is unclear in their analysis regarding what evidence this statement is based on.


It is also important to note that the government has abandoned their emergency research funding of $1 billion. The $1 billion was seen as a lifeline for elite institutions who have become, over the past two decades, increasingly reliant upon international student fees, for both research-funding and paying wages of staff. The cancellation of it has reported increasing anxieties and stress amongst university staff and leaders.


As Dr Alison Barned, the National President of the National Tertiary Education Union has written, “Where is the rescue package for higher education, our 4th largest export sector which has lost over 17,300 jobs and thousands of courses after being locked out of JobKeeper? Where is the pathway for the return of international students?”


Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi responded to the Federal Budget in an interview with The Guardian, asking “How can we expect to rebuild with this government hellbent on decimating teaching and research?”


In other aspects of the Federal Budget, it is clear that Morrison’s Coalition government is falling short of expectations.


The Saturday Paper has reported that despite the Federal Budget’s supposed focus on supporting women and pledging $342 billion to support that initiative, one critical front-line service has lost much of its funding. The Working Women’s Centres (WWC) across Australia “provide information, advocacy, support and advice to women on work related issues.” The service requires $700,000 a year to keep its doors open. The government has not even allotted 30% of that requirement, and as such, some of the vital centres across the country may be forced to close by the end of the year.


Treasurer Josh Frydenburg said in his speech to Parliament addressing the Federal Budget that, “Australia is on the pathway to net zero and our goal is to get there as soon as we possibly can, preferably by 2050.”


However, a week after the release of the Federal Budget, the government has revealed it has also allocated $3 billion towards supporting the fossil fuel industry. The Saturday Paper has reported that a further $600 million will go towards building a gas plant in the Hunter Valley. The government did not detail this plan in the Federal Budget, claiming that hiding the cost was due to “commercial sensitivities.”


On Friday, May 21, 2021, a march for climate action kicked off in cities across Australia, primarily organised by School Strike 4 Climate AU. Students from each state rallied, demanding the end of gas and fossil fuels, with much anger surrounding the lack of money reserved for renewable energies in the Federal Budget and the Morrison government’s “gas recovery plan.” Students held various signs decorated with slogans which included, “Wake Up Scomo,” “Fund Our Future Not Gas,” and “I Can’t Die Before We Get A 1D Reunion.”


Like with most Liberal-National Coalition governments in Australian history, messages and promotions are often not backed up by action. One of the key messages in this Federal Budget is that the Morrison government is focused on “building a more secure and resilient Australia.”


How can it do that if it refuses to support the education of the future of Australia, if its measures to support women’s safety are merely a publicity stunt, and if it continues to hide its greedy gas and oil money-making ventures behind false promises of meeting international climate deadlines?


Scott Morrison is letting Australia burn and fall behind international standards in all aspects of this Federal Budget. We can’t pretend this Federal Budget is doing anything else.

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