Crikey is preparing to jump on a plane tomorrow for our fifth consecutive five-hour budget lock-up. First Dog on the Moon is primed for some stellar budget-themed doodling and Bernard Keane and John Quiggin have locked in an office video chat in a sequel to their stellar 2009 Guy Rundle-assisted effort.

So, 30 hours out, what do we already know of the budget measures as Wayne Swan looks to make $20 billion in savings and cut spending as a proportion of GDP to one of the lowest amounts in decades? In the tradition of leaking nearly everything of interest before the big day, it seems quite a lot, if this compilation of recent reports is to go by (see Crikey’s previous Budget Watch for what we already knew three weeks ago).

Health:

  • State public dental waiting lists of 400,000 to be attacked via a funds injection of $350 million. An extra $150 million to get more dentists in the system, especially in rural areas.
  • Natural therapy to suffer a blow with “naturopathy, aromatherapy, ear candling, crystal therapy, flower essences, homeopathy, iridology, kinesiology, reiki and rolfing” possibly ruled ineligible for the health insurance rebate if they can’t be proven by Science to actually work.
  • Bowel cancer screening program to extend to people turning sixty from next year at a cost of $49.7 million.
  • Possible clawback of cost blowouts in the Howard government’s Medicare safety net, which currently reimburses patients with 80% of their medical costs above annual thresholds of about $600 for pensioners and low-income patients and $1200 for others.
  • Aged care will get an extra $577 million over five years as part of a broader $3.7 billion package.

Education:

  • Parents who previously failed to collect education receipts to claim their school kids’ expenses given a cash lifeline of $410 a year for each primary school child and $820 for high school students.

Welfare:

  • People swanning around overseas for over six weeks will lose government welfare payments as opposed to the current 13 weeks.
  • Single mums without work once their youngest child turns eight and who started getting money prior to 2006 will have their benefit reduced to the pitiful Newstart amount. Meant to force them back into work but in a flagging economy who can tell.

Defence:

  • Defence budget wisely smashed by $5 billion, including $1.8 billion from delays to the Joint Strike Fighter and another $3 billion from delays to future projects.

Taxation:

  • Cuts to tax breaks for 128,000 high income earners (over $300,000 pa) by doubling the discounted tax rate from 30 per cent from 15 per cent on voluntary contributions.
  • Green tax breaks promised to property developers in 2010 but might be scrapped, according to reports.
  • Tax free ciggies to be abolished to save $270 million as recommended by Ken Henry. Will prove a massive boon for vendors at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport.
  • Six million Australians will get a tax cut of up to $300 beginning on May 9 and extending into next year. The tax-free threshold will increase on July 1 from $6000 a year to $18,200.
  • Living away from home Tax breaks claimed mostly by footloose executives to be pegged at one year and also curbed to save $1 billion.

Clean energy future:

  • Carbon tax on under 500 big polluters starts on July 1 at fixed rate of $23 per tonne. Will actually cost the budget money when handouts are factored in until an ETS gets properly cracking in a few years time (assuming the carbon price doesn’t collapse).
  • The Greens’ Clean Energy Finance Corp will spend $10 billion over five years on clean energy technology.
  • $100 supplements to family payments paid into bank accounts this month to offset the carbon tax. Also, increases in some pension payments and family allowances.

MRRT:

  • The weak-kneed 30% Minerals Resource Rent Tax will kick in on July 1 on profits above $75 million and is forecast to raise $3.7 billion in 2012-13, $3.8 billion in 2013-14, and $3.1 billion in 2014-15 paid mostly by BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata.
  • Small business looks set get a 1% tax cut from 30% to 29% as part of MRRT laws but Swan has been sketchy on committing to it.

Employment incentives:

  • Employers given $10 million in $1000 lots over four years to hire experienced older Australians who would otherwise be jostling for the age pension.
  • Skills package worth $9 billion as agreed with the States at COAG.

Small business measures:

  • A scheme to let small business “carry back” $1million in losses against previous paid tax at a cost of $700 million over three years.

Closing the gap:

  • Indigenous “Stronger Futures” package of $2.6 billion over 10 years to close the gap on Australia’s yawning inequalities on community services, health and education.

Public sector:

  • About $465 million slashed from the public sector via an annual rise in the efficiency dividend from 1.25 per cent to 1.5 per cent into 2014. Around 3,000 job losses mooted.

Foreign aid:

  • Mandated rise in foreign aid from 0.35 to 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015-16 delayed to save $8 billion, despite protests from the aid lobby.

Flood levy:

  • Flood victims (about 45,000) won’t have to pay the flood levy to assist themselves before June 30.

Child care:

  • Child Care rebate of 50% might still be means tested, despite strong hints it would be maintained.

Peter Fray

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