The Morrison government has announced record spending in its second COVID-19 budget, with Crikey, in our late-night edition, explaining that:
- The Coalition has publicly junked its “small government” furphy with deficits to eclipse $100 billion for the next two years, despite unemployment being expected to fall below 5%, and to exceed $50 billion in 2024-25, “making this the first budget in history designed to buy two elections in a row”
- Aged care will receive $17.7 billion over four years, including plans for 80,000 new home care packages, $3.9 billion to meet long-standing demands for staffing ratios in residential care; and $3.2 billion to increase the Government Basic Daily Fee per resident paid to residential providers by $10 a day
- The Health Services Union has since raised concerns the package “barely makes up for the $10 billion worth of cuts that have been inflicted over the last eight years” and failed to guarantee aged care workers more than $21 an hour
- Some improvements on women’s issues post-March4Justice: funding has been doubled for domestic violence prevention, the $450-a-month threshold on compulsory employer superannuation payments will be scrapped, and $20.5 million to implement the Respect@Work report’s recommendations
- Other winners include single parents (with reduced deposit requirements through the Family Home Guarantee); small and medium business (full expensing of capital expenditure will be extended until June 30, 2023 along with the temporary loss carry-back); construction (an additional $15.2 billion in infrastructure and the extension of HomeBuilder) and, shockingly, the gas industry ($58.6 million for previously-flagged infrastructure, $24.9 million to help new gas generators get “hydrogen-ready”, $30 million for early work on a gas generator project in Port Kembla, and $173.6 million for NT gas industry roads update)
- Losers again include the ABC (which will lose 6% of indicative funding from between 2021-22 and 2024-25, after already losing a cool $783 million since the Coalition came to power); the unemployed (which will suffer a 43.2% post-COVID assistance fall over the next year and 25% up to 2024-25; a loss of 800 jobs from Services Australia and Centrelink; $671 million “saved” over five years by making all new residents wait four years before they can get any form of welfare; and, in a reminder the spirit of robodebt lives on, $27.6 million allocated over the next five years to crack down on “welfare integrity”); and clean energy (see: RenewEconomy on the entirely ignored potential for a green recovery).
The ABC also notes that the budget projects the international border is expected to remain closed until mid-2022 and that a quarantine program will remain in place, while it will take until the end of 2021 for the government to implement a “population-wide vaccination program”.
More worryingly, just over 100 rescue flights will be sent over the next year to collect about 17,000 stranded Australians — a figure The Sydney Morning Herald explains is just around half the people registered as wanting to come home.
PS: In real “taking the trash out” news, AAP reports that Andrew Laming has reneged on an earlier promise to immediately resign from all parliamentary positions, claiming he is the victim of character assassinations.
For more on the budget, check out Crikey’s free and unlocked webinar tonight at 6pm AEST, with journalists Janine Perrett, Bernard Keane, Amber Schultz, and Professor Richard Holden from the UNSW School of Economics. SmartCompany will also hold their inaugural talks event at 12pm, with editor Eloise Keating; CEO of COSBOA Peter Strong; founder of carbon emission-monitoring software Evalue8 Sustainability Ilea Buffier; and CFO of innovative drinks retailer Altina Drinks Alan Tse.
As the The Sydney Morning Herald explains, the budget had a mixed response from critics.
For example, Labor and the Greens issued unsurprising statements:
- Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers: “It is a shameless political fix, rather than the genuine reform needed to make Australia’s economy stronger, broader, and more sustainable. Despite spending almost $100 billion and racking up a record $1 trillion in debt, the Morrison government’s budget reveals real wages will go backwards”;
- Greens leader Adam Bandt: “Tonight’s budget is a pre-election sweetener that fails to make billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share of tax, while growing inequality and fast-tracking climate collapse. The economic forecasts are built on sand and on an assumption our failed quarantine and vaccine program will miraculously start to work and that the rest of world overcomes the pandemic.”
On the more positive end of the spectrum, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Business Council of Australia welcomed incentives to increase workforce participation, promote business investment and boost productivity, but highlighted risks of reduced migration and global investment post-COVID.
COMPARISON CORNER: While comparing funding allocations can be a fruitless endeavour, some of the more telling examples from last night include “$17.9 billion in tax write-offs for big business and only $1.1 billion for women’s safety” (ACTU president Michele O’Neil); $270 billion over 10 years for defence while rejecting the $10 billion per year needed to bring JobSeeker over the poverty line (the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union); and anyone who has suffered unemployment cuts, mutual obligations, or defamation lawsuits from certain government ministers hearing about commitments to mental health support.
Victorian health authorities have revealed potential COVID-19 exposure sites after a man tested positive to COVID-19 at Wollert, north of Melbourne, following quarantine in a South Australian hotel. The ABC explains that tier one exposure sites include:
- Pact Retail Accessories (recently known as TIC Group — front office) in Altona North at any time on Thursday, May 6
- The Curry Vault Indian restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD on Friday, May 7 between 6.30pm and 9.30pm
- Epping Indiagates Spices and Groceries on Saturday, May 8 between 5:00pm and 6:00pm
- Epping Woolworths on Saturday, May 8 between 5:40pm and 6:38pm.
Further, The Sydney Morning Herald notes that, from today, anyone arriving in NSW from Melbourne will have to complete a declaration form confirming they have not attended either tier one or two venues in the previous 14 days.
MORE DEATHS IN PALESTINE
Following recent attempts by Israeli forces to expel Palestinians, as well as days of violence against protesters and an inciting raid of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera reports that at least 28 more Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza and two Israelis have been killed following retaliatory rockets from Hamas.
The Palestinian resistance group’s armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, has since threatened to strike Tel Aviv if Israel continues to target residential buildings in Gaza — with some of the most severe damage so far including the collapse of a multi-storey residential tower in western Gaza City.
Al Jazeera reports that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said has said that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad will ‘pay a very heavy price’, after a day of Gaza rocket fire and Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian coastal enclave”.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
When people want to make manoeuvres, they have to find something that you can’t do anything about. And one thing I can’t do anything about is the day I was born, nor the sex that I was given courtesy of the chromosome interaction, whatever, which caused me to be a male.
Following news he will be demoted to third place on the Tasmanian Liberals senate ticket, the man who last year demanded three Chinese Australians speaking at a diaspora inquiry issue ad hoc condemnations of the “Chinese Communist Party dictatorship” suggests he is being punished for simply being born.
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Missed it by that much: good effort at marketing misses the main chance — Ross Gittins (The Sydney Morning Herald): “This is the lick-and-a-promise budget. The budget that proves it is possible to be half pregnant. Which makes it the couldabeen budget. Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg had the makings of a champion of budgets, but their courage failed them. It’s not a bad budget. Most of the things it does are good things to do. Its goal of driving unemployment much lower is exactly right. Its approach of increasing rather than cutting government spending is correct, as is its strategy of fixing the economy to fix the budget.”
Less hard hats, more soft hearts: budget pivots to women and care — Danielle Wood and Tom Crowley (The Conversation): “Last year’s post-budget photo ops were all heavy machinery and hard hats. But this year we can expect soft-focus shots with children and the elderly. The big story of the budget is not just that the government is spending tens of billions more as we emerge from the recession; it is also the major shift in what the money will be spent on. The change in fiscal strategy — from a ‘construction-led recovery’ last year to a concerted emphasis on women and the care sector this year — is based on solid economic advice.”
Budget 2021: Plan mostly politics with little economics ($) — Judith Sloan (The Australian): “Budgets are always a mix of economics and politics. Tuesday’s budget was no exception. My first impression was that it was one part economics, four parts politics. Having waded through Budget Paper No 1 — the key document — I ended up coming to the conclusion that this year’s budget is nearly all politics, with a potentially serious misreading of the economic outlook and the scope for government spending and interference to cause more harm than good. In particular, the continuation of the fiscal pump-priming in the context of an accelerating pace of economic growth means that everything could quite quickly end in tears, although after the next election (which may be as early as the end of this year).”
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Josh Frydenberg will deliver the National Press Club Post-Budget Address at the Great Hall at Parliament House.