Federal budget 2021: Winners and Losers

This article originally appeared in https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-11/federal-budget-2021-winners-and-losers/13328556

Find out who’s getting a cash boost and who’s missing out in Josh Frydenberg’s 2021 federal budget.


Vaccines – Winner

An extra $1.9 billion will be spent on our vaccine strategy over the next five years, with the government also confirming it’s set aside a pool of money to invest in mRNA vaccine production in Australia.

Currently, mRNA vaccines can’t be made in Australia but after the official health advice that the preferred COVID-19 vaccine for people under 50 be Pfizer (mRNA), many called on the government to look at producing them locally.

While mRNA technology was in development before the pandemic, it hadn’t been used in vaccines until companies like Pfizer and Moderna rolled out their treatments.

The government invested heavily in the AstraZeneca vaccine and manufacturer CSL given it was a type of vaccine already used and could be produced locally.

The budget doesn’t say how much funding the government will provide for mRNA production because of “commercial in confidence sensitivities”.

But it does say that it’s asked the Department of Industry to work with the Department of Health to develop onshore manufacturing capabilities for now and long-term use.

The government is also chipping in another $1.5 billion for COVID-related health services like testing and contact tracing.


Renewables – Loser

Thereis no new direct funding in the budget for renewables, except for $30 million over the next year for a big battery and microgrid project between Katherine and Darwin in the Northern Territory.

Most of the government’s spending on energy is focused at low emissions technologies.

The government’s putting $643.4 million over the next four years into low emissions technologies, including $539 million in funding for two “clean” energy schemes announced before the budget by the Prime Minister.

It includes $275 million towards developing four more hydrogen production hubs in regional areas, and $237 million for carbon capture and storage projects (CCS) and hubs.

Critics from the Climate Council and The Australia Institute have raised concerns with both projects, saying unless hydrogen is produced using entirely renewable power it will still contribute toward emissions.

On CCS, the Climate Council has labelled it an “extremely expensive” technology that does not deliver zero emissions and hasn’t worked around the world.


Women – Winner

Last year’s budget was criticised for its lack of specific focus on funding for women — while this year is a completely different story, the funding across multiple areas falls below what many services and advocates had called for.

In addition to changes to the childcare subsidy, the government’s tipping in $354 million for women’s health.

That includes $100 million for improving cervical and breast cancer screening programs, including extending the free mammogram service to now cover women aged 40 to 74 (previously it was for women aged 50 to 74).

More than $47 million is being put toward depression services for pregnant women and new mothers, $95.9 million on screening of embryos during IVF and $13.7 million to reduce pre-term birth rates, especially among Indigenous communities.

The government’s spending $27 million on programs to reduce eating disorders and $21.6 million on other health initiatives including education and pain management programs for endometriosis.

It’s also putting $998 million over the next four years towards reducing domestic and family violence, and supporting survivors.

That funding covers money for frontline services and specific programs for migrant, refugee and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women.

For perspective, Women’s Safety NSW said it estimated the sector needed $1 billion a year just for frontline services.

There’ll also be a new trial program which gives women fleeing violent relationships up to $5,000 in assistance, split into a $1,500 payment and $3,500 in expenses like rent, legal fees and furniture.

There’s also money for consent and respectful relationship education and $320 million over four years for legal services.

To help women when they retire, the government will now make it so that employees who earn less than $450 a month will be paid the superannuation guarantee.

The change was sparked by the Retirement Income Review which found that of all the people affected by the previous threshold, 63 per cent were women.

But there’s no mention or suggestion of tacking super payments on to Paid Parental Leave payments, which industry advocates say is one of the key ways to close the super gap between men and women.

Building on last year’s budget, there’s more investment to encourage women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, with $42.4 million over seven years for 230 scholarships for “higher level STEM qualifications”.

Lastly, a new four-year scheme will offer 10,000 single parents who have dependent children assistance to buy a home with as little as a 2 per cent deposit.

According to the latest ABS data, 81 per cent of single parents are women, meaning the program could potentially give many a leg up into the housing market.


International Tourism – Loser

When the last budget was handed down in October, the government assumed that international borders would begin to gradually reopen towards the end of this year.

But given the issues with the vaccine rollout and ongoing international outbreaks, the government’s now saying the border won’t open until at least mid-2022.

That’s bad news for tourism operators who rely on international visitors.

While the government announced just under $60 million in last year’s budget to help some of these businesses diversify their markets, there’s little extra support this year.

Instead, the government is extending its zoo and aquarium support package and extra money for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.


Aged Care – Winner

The government is putting an extra $17.7 billion toward aged care over five years, or roughly $3.5 billion a year.

While it’s a significant injection, it’s worth noting the royal commission into aged care declared the sector was underfunded by about $10 billion a year.

The money will be spent on 80,000 new home care packages over the next two years, bringing the total to more than 275,000 by June 2023.

As at June 30 last year there were more than 100,000 people on the waiting list for home care packages, with the royal commission recommending the wait list be cleared by the end of this year, something that will not happen with the current spend.

The government is also tipping in $3.9 billion over the next four years to mandate the “care minutes” of 240,000 aged care residents and 67,000 people accessing respite services — another of the royal commission’s recommendations.

By October 1, 2023, providers will be required to provide three hours and 20 minutes of care, per resident, per day, including 40 minutes with a registered nurse.

There’ll also be a new government-funded “Basic Daily Fee” supplement of $10 per resident a day for providers to improve care and services.

Workforce training is also on the agenda, with $216 million over three years to provide more specialised training and $91.8 million over two years for 13,000 new home care workers.

Respite care and support services will also be boosted by $798 million over the next five years.

There is also money to help make it easier for senior Australians to navigate the aged care system, including $200 million for a new star rating system to make the performance of aged care providers clear.


Child Care – Winner

After being criticised for not providing any new childcare funding in last year’s pandemic-focused budget, the government is putting an extra $1.7 billion over the next three years into the industry.

The $566 million or so a year will go toward changes to the Childcare Subsidy Scheme which will come into effect in July 2022.

Under the changes, the annual $10,560 cap on households with an income of more than $189,390 will be abolished, matching Labor’s pledge.

If you have one child in childcare, the subsidy stays at 65 per cent but if you have two or more, it’s 95 per cent for each kid.

While the government estimates the changes will help around 250,000 families, others have argued it will still mean childcare is unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of other families who only have one child in care.


Young People – Neutral

An additional $500 million over two years will be directed to the JobTrainer program to create an estimated 163,000 places and reduce to the youth unemployment rate which is sitting at 11.8 per cent.

JobTrainer was unveiled last year and was one of the government’s plans to drive job creation in the wake of the pandemic by up-skilling school leavers or people who are unemployed through free or low-fee courses.

The government will have to work with the states and territories — who fund half the scheme — to have it extended until the end of 2022 like it hopes to.

The government’s apprenticeship wage subsidy scheme is also being extended to the tune of $2.7 billion.

It’s expected to help create 170,000new positions, but it’s worth remembering the money goes to employers and there’s no guarantee that apprentices will be kept on when their training finishes or when the subsidy ends.

But for school leavers or young people who don’t want to skill up in the areas targeted by JobTrainer like childcare, aged care and IT, or aren’t interested in an apprenticeship, there’s little in the budget.

There is going to be $21 million for 5,000 extra short course places at non-university higher education providers this year, but no extra funding for local university places.

The youth-focused JobMaker hiring credit, which provides incentive for businesses to hire young people, will still be available but is only expected to support 10,000 jobs over the next two years, instead of the 450,000 predicted last year.


Migration Rate – Loser

With the international borders still closed until at least mid next year, our migration numbers are expected to keep going backwards.

It’s now expected that net overseas migration will fall by around 97,000 by June this year — a bigger drop than the 72,000-person decrease it predicted in last year’s budget.

Migration will fall by a further 77,000 people between 2021-22 due to the border closure.

The budget predicts that it’ll then increase to 235,000 in 2024-25, but as the last year’s proven those figures really are just estimates that could change amid the uncertainty of COVID-19.


Preschool – Winner

Usually the government provides annual funding for preschool, but this year it’s giving a firmer commitment, promising $1.6 billion over the next four years.

The funding agreement still has to be worked out with the states and territories and will pay for at least 15 hours a week.

From 2024 the money will be be tied to attendance targets, with a goal to introduce a new “preschool outcomes measure” in 2025.


Gaming Industry – Winner

The government’s announced a 30 per cent refundable Digital Games Tax Offset to try and attract more of the $250 billion global game market to Australia.

To get the offset, eligible businesses have to spend at least $500,000 on certain games expenditure.

Exactly what that includes is still being worked out, and will be decided after the government consults with the industry.

The offset is part of the government’s $1.2 billion package on a range of measures to improve our digital technology and “digital economy”.

The package also includes money to improve MyGov and My Health Record, as well as research into artificial intelligence and cyber security.


Universities – Loser

Universities around the country which rely on international students are likely to continue to struggle given the delay on borders reopening, the slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout and no clearer picture on the future of hotel quarantine.

Making matters worse there is no specific funding for universities in the budget.

The budget now estimates the international border will open in 2022 and while the government is working on a three-step plan to achieve that, it relies on the majority of the population being vaccinated.

Some university heads, like the ANU’s Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt, have already said the number of international enrolments for next year is down on their forecasts as students turn to other countries like the United Kingdom and the United States.

“Students are preferencing going to places that are open, even with COVID running rampant,” he said.

There is some hope, states like Victoria and NSW are considering alternative plans to hotel quarantine — like using empty student accommodation — to get international students back as soon as possible.


Small Brewers – Winner

Small brewers and distillers — the little guys of the industry — are getting some more help this year with $255 million in tax relief.

From July 1 this year anyone who is eligible will be handed back up to $350,000 worth of taxes.

That’s a big increase from the 60 per cent refund of taxes up to a $100,000 annual cap at the moment.

But big booze companies aren’t eligible.


Taxpayers – Winner

The so-called “Low and Middle Income Tax Offset” will remain in place for another year.

The tax rebate, which workers receive after completing their tax returns, is worth different amounts to different income groups.

It was supposed to finish on June 30 but it will be extended by another 12 months.

This is how much you can expect to land back in your bank account if you’re in any of these wage brackets:

$37,000 or less$225
Between $37,001 and $48,000$255 plus 7.5 cents for every dollar above $37,000 up to a max of $1,080
Between $48,001 and $90,000$1,080
Between $90,001 and $126,000$1,080 minus three cents for every dollar of the amount above $90,000


International Students – Neutral

While the continued border closure until 2022 may mean students cannot come or return to Australia to study, the government has made some changes so that those who are here can work more.

The fortnightly limit of 40-hours of work for international students with jobs in hospitality and tourism is going to be scrapped.

A similar change was made for anyone working in agriculture, health or aged care.

And while there are plans being considered in Victoria and NSW to bring international students back to Australia outside of hotel quarantine, the budget only goes as far to say that “small phased programs” for international students will start late this year.


Mental Health – Winner

An extra $2.3 billion is being invested into the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, and will be shared across five key areas.

Around $250 million has been set aside for early intervention, including a new digital platform that’ll provide online counselling, peer and clinical support, and referrals.

A further $298 million will go directly to suicide prevention. The federal government is going to work with the states and territories to fund aftercare for every person discharged from hospital after a suicide attempt.

The biggest share of cash will go to treatment, with $1.4 billion for a new national network of mental health treatment centres for adults, youth and kids.

A further $107 million will be spent on supporting vulnerable Australians, specifically Indigenous people.

And finally, the government is putting $202 million to increase the workforce, offering scholarships and clinical placements for nurses, psychologists and allied health practitioners working in the mental health space.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has also announced a new National Suicide Prevention Office will be formed.

The new money is in response to the findings from a report by the Productivity Commission into Mental Health and comes in the wake of increased pressure on mental health support providers throughout the pandemic.


New Residents – Loser

There aren’t a lot of cuts in this budget, but one way the government is expecting to save a lot of money is by making “newly arrived residents” wait four years across the board for “most” welfare payments.

The new rule will start on January 1, 2022 and is expected to save $671 million over five years.

There’s no more detail in any of the budget papers about who counts as a new resident and what payments they will be blocked from receiving, but the change is something the Australian Council of Social Service has already flagged as “very concerning”.


Businesses – Winner

As well as the support announced for particular industries like small brewers, video gaming and medical and biotech start-ups, the budget also has a few perks for other businesses.

Last year’s business write-off perks are being extended by another 12 months.

That means businesses with a turnover of up to $5 billion will be able to write off the full value of any eligible asset like a work vehicle or equipment they bought between last budget and June 30, 2023.

The extension also mean any losses incurred up to June 2023 can be offset against prior profits made going back to the 2018-19 financial year.


Farmers – Winner

Farmers will benefit from the instant asset write-off which has been extended until June 2023, allowing them to immediately deduct the full cost of eligible depreciable assets.

There’s also $200 million for a National Soil Strategy that will include rebates for farmers that share the results of soil testing, and $370 million for biosecurity measures to stop the spread of pests and diseases.

The government will spend almost $60 million trialling ways to reduce emissions through livestock feed and soil management.

It’ll also waive almost $15 million of debt owed by more than 5,000 farmers receiving the Farm Household Allowance from Centrelink.

But those looking for an answer to the shortage of farm workers or a new international trade strategy to deal with the fallout from Australia’s deteriorating relationship with China may be disappointed.


Medical Start Ups – Winner

One of the new ideas in the budget is a new tax program aimed at encouraging medical and biotech companies to stay in Australia while they develop and then sell their ideas.

In a nutshell the “patent box tax regime” will tax any income from a company’s patent at a concessional rate of 17 per cent starting from July 1, 2022.

For comparison, large businesses are taxed at 30 per cent and small-to-medium enterprises at 25 per cent.

Start-ups are an area the government is focusing on this budget, with $500 million in other new measures to make Australia an attractive place for businesses.

Part of that includes removing red tape and changing tax rules to encourage the use of employee share schemes, which the government says are important for start-ups to attract and retain staff.


Refugees – Neutral

The government is keeping its reduced cap of refugee places at 13,750 a year after lowering it by 5,000 in last year’s budget.

But it is extending funding for support services that help women on temporary visas who may be experiencing domestic and family violence.

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