Increased taxes

  • Immigration crackdown — $572 million gained over forward estimates

By making visa holders pay the full costs of their Australian visas and citizenship applications, the government hopes to reel in a whopping $437.1 million while providing no extra service to the hundreds of thousands of foreigners who apply for visas or citizenship in Australia. The measure, the budget papers state, “is underpinned by the principle that cost recovery promotes equality where the recipients of a government service, rather than the general public, bear its costs”. Increases to charges for licensing and import processing bump up the total to half a billion.

  • Tax residency rule changes — $420 million gained over forward estimates

Speaking of increasing taxes on those who can’t vote you out, the government has also changed how it taxes those on working-holiday visas. Currently, foreigners in Australia working for longer than six months can qualify for residential tax treatment, giving them access to our sliding taxation system, including its tax-free threshold. From the 2015-16 financial year, the budget reveals, those on working holidays will be charged a tax rate of 32.5% from the first dollar, ­­­­regardless of how long they are in the country.

Tax cuts

  • Small business tax relief — $5.3 billion spent over forward estimates

The government’s “delicious” package, to quote Small Business Minister Bruce Billson, will cost the budget $250 million in the coming financial year, and the cost will rapidly increase every year after. Over the forward estimates, the small business tax cut alone will cost $3.25 billion. The accelerated depreciation for small businesses will cost almost as much — $2.05 billion over the forward estimates.

New spending

  • Removing extra hoops for the young and unemployed — $2.02 billion spent over forward estimates

All new Newstart recipients who are under 30 will be made to undertake extra job-search activities before qualifying for income support, instead of the six-month waiting period announced in the last budget. This will cost $1.8 billion over the forward estimates. The government has also delayed implementing an increase to the age of eligibility for Newstart (from 22 to 25 years) until July 1, 2015, costing the budget $171 million over five years.

  • Terrorism crackdown — $817.1 million spent over forward estimates (with the vast bulk in the coming financial year)

As leaked to The Daily Telegraph, the government will spend the better part of a billion dollars combatting the terrorist group Islamic State. Several defence initiatives have seen their funding extended, but the single biggest outlay is on Operation Okra, which is the ADF’s contribution to the international effort against Islamic State in Iraq. In the 2015-16 financial year, this will mean $370.8 million is given to the Department of Defence for the purpose of aiding and training the Iraqi army.

  • A new childcare subsidy — $3.2 billion spent over the forward estimates

The government has put aside $3.2 billion over five years to introduce a childcare subsidy from July 1, 2017. The subsidy will pay 85% of childcare costs, subject to an hourly cap, for families with annual incomes up to $60,000 (to be adjusted for inflation), tapering to 50% of the cost of childcare for families with annual incomes of $165,000. An interim “home-based carer subsidy” will also subsidise nannies from July 1, 2016.

  • Extending early childhood education commitments — $843 million spent over forward estimates

The government has extended a program that subsidises pre-school education for two more years.

  • Dough to the ATO to fund GST compliance — $445 million gained over forward estimates

The government will give the ATO $265.5 million in the three years from 2016-17, and expects this will increase revenue by $2.5 billion and expenses by $2.1 billion, giving a net improvement to the budget of $445 million.

Spending cuts

  • Welfare crackdown — $1.7 billion saved over forward estimates

By spending $205 million on helping the Department of Human Services detect fraud and recover debt, Treasury expects to recover $1.7 billion over five years.

  • Closing detention centres — $554.5 million saved over forward estimates

By closing the Christmas Island and Darwin detention centres, the government hopes to achieve half a billion in savings over the forward estimates. The centres are no longer required, the budget papers state, because fewer asylum seekers are travelling to Australia by boat.

  • Ending assistance to the car industry — $783.4 million saved over forward estimates

As Australia’s major car production facilities shut down in the lead up to 2017, the government’s Automotive Transformation Scheme is largely moot.

  • No jab, no pay — $508.3 million saved over forward estimates

Families who don’t immunise their children will no longer qualify for the Family Tax Benefit Part A, as has been previously announced.

  • No government-funded parental leave for those on more generous employer-provided schemes — $967.7 million over forward estimates

By not allowing new mothers to “double-dip” into government-funded parental leave if they are also offered paid leave by their employer, the government hopes to save nearly a billion dollars in the next five years.

Peter Fray

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