A big-spend budget to boost COVID recovery

The federal budget has a focus on fixing the aged care system, with $17.7 billion poured into the sector following the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. This includes $630.2 million to improve access to quality aged care services for consumers in regional areas.

David Braithwaite

THE 2021-22 federal budget aims to create 250,000 jobs to help Australia recover from the economic hit of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The budget also has a focus on fixing the aged care system, with $17.7 billion poured into the sector following the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

This includes $630.2 million to improve access to quality aged care services for consumers in regional areas.

The government will provide $65 million to boost bulk billing rebates in regional areas, and $354 million to support women’s health and wellbeing during the next four years.

Among infrastructure projects in the budget, $13.2 million will go towards upgrading intersections along the Princes Highway through Gippsland, $1 billion will be allocated to extend the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, and there will be another $1 billion for the Road Safety Program.

Up to $38.7 million will support gas infrastructure projects, including a storage project at Golden Beach to alleviate the forecast gas supply shortfalls, while $275.5 million will go towards four additional hydrogen export hubs, and $263.7 million towards developing carbon capture technologies.

The JobTrainer fund will be extended, with $506.3 million to support an additional 163,000 new training places to train job seekers and meet skills shortages.

The government will provide $11.9 million over four years to support innovation in the forestry sector, including the Gippsland Regional Forestry Hub.

A funding pathway will be established to deliver small scale water infrastructure projects, with the government also allocating $172.5 million for the Future Drought Fund, and $25 million to extend the On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme by one year.

The government will create the National Recovery and Resilience Agency to support local communities hit by major disasters.

Income tax cuts will lead to an extra $1080 for singles earning up to $126,000, and $2160 for dual income couples on low and middle incomes.

Tax cuts for small and medium businesses will save them $16 billion by 2023-24.

A $1.7 million package will aim to ease out-of-pocket costs for families using childcare.

Ten thousand single parents with incomes of less than $125,000 will be able to enter the property market with a two per cent deposit, while an additional 10,000 first home buyers will be able to buy a new property with a five per cent deposit.

A scheme aimed at helping people access superannuation money to buy a property will be expanded from $30,000 to $50,000.

The projects and programs come at a cost – with debt heading to $1.2 trillion in 2025.

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester welcomed the focus on additional funding to keep delivering infrastructure and securing jobs and critical services.

“It focuses on connecting our communities and keeping Gippslanders safe, and includes $10 million to upgrade the Mallacoota-Genoa Rd and funding for major safety and intersection upgrades along the Princes Highway – both huge wins for local communities,” he said.

“There’s more money for telecommunications upgrades, and the Building Better Regions Fund will improve sporting and community facilities.

“The budget is securing the workforce in areas like health, education, aged care, veterans, disability and childcare, and ensuring the delivery of these services across our region.

“Providing people with the support and opportunities they need will in turn create jobs and build a stronger local economy.

“There is also support for practical environmental projects as we recover from the bushfires and care for Gippsland’s natural assets,” Mr Chester said.

“Our tax cuts for lower and middle income earners are putting more money in the pockets of Gippslanders, to spend on what matters to them, which helps local businesses and creates more jobs in our region.”

Chairman of peak regional advocacy body One Gippsland and Bass Coast Shire mayor Brett Tessari said the budget would assist the region to be healthier, more prosperous and connected.

“In addition to the projects committed for Gippsland, we also welcome the broader funding committed across, health, education, digital connectivity and food and fibre (agriculture) in the budget,” he said.

“One Gippsland will be working with the government to ensure the Gippsland region receives a fair slice of the pie.”

Victorian Farmers Federation president Emma Germano said the budget was mostly good news for farmers with important investments in soil health, trade, biosecurity, infrastructure and farm businesses.

“It’s a step in the right direction after a tough 12 months,” she said.

“Agriculture has proven its resilience, and it’s pleasing to see this support as we continue to play a major role in our COVID-19 economic fightback.”

The Australian Aged Care Collaboration, which represents more than 1000 aged care providers, congratulated the government on agreeing to implement most of the aged care Royal Commission’s 148 recommendations.

However, Health Services Union national president Gerard Hayes said the package would not change the aged care crisis.

“This barely makes up for the $10 billion worth of cuts that have been inflicted over the last eight years,” he said.

“For carers, therapists and support workers, there is no commitment to permanent, better paid jobs.”

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Karen Price welcomed many of the primary care measures, but said more investment was needed for broader general practice reform.

“The $1.8 billion figure is welcome; however, it is unclear how much of this will flow through to frontline GP patient services,” she said.

“We are working closely with the government to develop a model for meaningful investment in general practice care, and this will continue.

“Supporting general practice will improve the health and wellbeing of patients from all walks of life and reduce the need for more expensive secondary care.”

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed measures to boost to the digital economy, skills and jobs, and make the workplace more appealing for women, to help the economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

C4G says budget will be good for Gippsland

THE Committee for Gippsland says the federal government has responded to its calls for investment into small and medium business, infrastructure and technology in this year’s federal budget.

Committee chief executive Jane Oakley said funding announced for roads, infrastructure and telecommunications programs was a welcome investment which would benefit local industry and community, as well as visitors to the region.

“Ten million dollars towards the Mallacoota-Genoa Rd improvements, $380 million Pakenham roads upgrades, and $51 million towards Princes Highway East, between Rosedale and the New South Wales border, will have significant benefits to the region in terms of road safety and freight efficiencies,” she said.

“Importantly, these priorities align with those identified by the Gippsland Regional Plan Leadership Group to the federal government as part of our recent submission, advocating for a more connected region by targeted investment.

“Committee for Gippsland has undertaken extensive engagement and preliminary work over the past 12 months and is pleased that these announcements will deliver economic recovery and growth along with social outcomes aimed at improving the standard of living for Gippsland residents.”

Ms Oakley said budget measures that had delivered reduced taxes to employees would hopefully flow through the community with local spending or on the visitor economy, while tax offsets provided to small business would enable local trades and business owners to upgrade their tools or buy new vehicles.

“Further funding allocated to programs such as Building Better Region Fund will make a significant contribution to delivering enabling infrastructure across our region, while the investment into connectivity will be a boost for local businesses, families and visitors to Gippsland,” she said.

“Gippsland has a long and proud timber industry and we are particularly pleased to see investment into forestry that helps secure long-term sustainable forest and timber products, with the Committee for Gippsland now advocating on the core challenge being reduced timber supply and fast-tracking future investment into plantation growth.”

Ms Oakley said there were “key opportunities” for Gippsland in this year’s budget, with investment across areas such as health, tourism, agriculture, workforce skills and training and aged care, while also improving access to markets for the region’s food, fibre and advanced manufacturing sectors.

“Importantly, Gippsland’s clean energy sector will also benefit, with access to the $1.6 billion allocated federally to fund priority technologies, including clean hydrogen and energy storage,” she said.

The Committee for Gippsland is advocating for future funding into the Traralgon bypass.