Although the 2018 budget is packed with goodies designed to save the government from the electoral oblivion it currently faces, it’s not all sweetness and light. Here’s your quick guide to who’s come out ahead and who’s left counting the cost.



The government has renewed its ever-popular school chaplains program, with a quarter of a billion dollars for the program over four years. And then there’s free bishops … “The Government will also exempt religious organisations from paying the Skilling Australians Fund levy when they nominate a foreign skilled worker for a Temporary Skill Shortage or Employer Nomination Scheme visa under the Minister of Religion Labour Agreement or a company-specific Labour Agreement, covering bishops, ministers of religion and religious assistants.”


ASIS, our foreign spy service (best known for their East Timor Cabinet bugging effort to help Woodside and the Howard government) is getting extra funding but, naturally, “the expenditure for this measure is not for publication (nfp) due to national security reasons.”

Or as a wise woman once put it, “we’d like to be vaguely accountable, but we’d have to kill you.” Their domestic colleagues at ASIO are getting $24.4 million “to support current operations and undertake preliminary work to enhance future operations.”

Well, at least we have a vague idea that the money relates to either something they’re doing now, or something might do in the future. Love to see those KPIs.

There’s also $59.1 million “to enable the joint Commonwealth-States build of a National Criminal Intelligence System (NCIS).” And the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission is getting some extra cash but, again, it would literally kill you to find out.

Super holders

This is actually a good move: the government is going to stop people with multiple small super accounts having them eroded by fees.

It’s also going to cap fees for small super accounts (3% maximum for accounts of less than $6000).

There’ll also be a requirement for people with low super accounts to opt in to insurance within superannuation (which some industry funds do already).

The best part of this is, it will actually generate revenue for the government – in effect transferring part of the largesse super funds are creaming off from small account holders now and splitting it between the fund holder and the government via extra tax revenue.

The government will also be giving more cash to the Tax Office to go after miscreants who fail to pay their employees’ super entitlements.


Pensioners will now be able to earn up to $300 a fortnight without affecting their pensions and an exemption will be introduced in the superannuation work test.

There’ll also be an additional 14,000 home care packages to help keep seniors out of aged care as long as possible.

City motorists

The $1 billion “Urban Congestion Fund” “will support projects to remediate pinch points, improve traffic safety and increase network efficiency for commuter and freight movements in urban areas.”

Remember, it was just four years ago that Tony Abbott was insisting, as an article of faith for the Liberal Party, that the Commonwealth had no role to play in urban infrastructure.


Expanding previous initiatives, the government has made a 12-year funding commitment worth around $1.9 billion for the Research Infrastructure Investment Plan, which “will involve partially funding specific national research infrastructure projects.”

IT companies

Both Immigration and Centrelink will be getting major IT upgrades — together, the best part of $450 million. Start your procurement engines, folks.



Maybe they should held onto the cabinet files a bit longer … like, until tonight.

Welfare recipients

Thought robo-debt was bad the first time?

The government is extending it and reckons it can get an extra $300 million in coming years from threatening to send da boys roun’ to collect fictional or wildly overstated debt from welfare recipients.

No apparent increased Medicare funding for the rise in broken legs and shattered kneecaps though.


Now you can wait four years, rather than three, to get welfare benefits. That’ll save $200 million.

It features prominently in the Budget Overview, we’re assuming so Tony Abbott sees it before his next adventure into immigration policy on radio (although he’ll probably demand it be five years instead).

Mike Pezzullo

“Iron Mike”, who presides over Canberra’s most strikingly incompetent bureaucracy, the Department of Immigration (they call themselves Home Affairs these days), hasdone well from some new “black economy” programs, but has to find a quarter billion dollars of savings in his new superduper portfolio by reducing super duplication in it.

But it’s OK, he’s also getting $130 million to fix his visa processing IT system, described in a recent ANAO report as “totally shit” (we exaggerate about the ANAO, but only a tad).


Another $140 million will be cut from foreign aid. However, the government describes not as a cut or a saving, but as a commitment to “maintain Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending at $4.0 billion per year.”

“Maintain” as in, maintain it in nominal terms, not real terms, so it’s a cut.

The Black Economy

Tobacco smugglers. People who use cash a lot. Dodgy tax agents. Cash-only tradies – the government is coming for you.

Should provide some great material for the forthcoming series NCIS Canberra.

What do you think about the winners and losers of the 2018 federal budget? Let us know on [email protected].