This article appeared in the Tasmanian Country Newspaper on 28th October 2022
This week, to be totally predictable, I’m going to discuss the Federal budget. Firstly I would like recognise the analysis contributions from the National Farmers Federation (NFF), Australian Dairy Federation (ADF), Cattle Council and the TFGA team. I know Wednesday was a late night for us at the TFGA and many organisations; dissecting the budget in order to clarify the ramifications for our members and Australian agriculture more broadly.
On the whole, the budget presented a stronger overall position than expected. In reality this was not a result of great political management, but geopolitical influences. For example, stronger employment figures and higher commodity prices have give The budget a boost of more than $40 billion. To counteract this burst of positivity, the budget was hit by underestimated social services spending (the largest overall budget item) and, understandably, an underestimated defence investment (think Ukraine and China tensions).
The economy is facing escalating inflation and operating in the hangover of reining in the COVID 19 spend-fest.
This budget offers few truly new funding announcements for agriculture and Tasmania. Most of the spending relating to agriculture has been previously unveiled at the Job and Skills Summit or through previous biosecurity announcements regarding foot and mouth disease. Still, let’s take a look at a few of the key budget impact areas.
In one of the big wins, Tasmanian Irrigation Limited has secured an additional $100 million for tranche three irrigation projects. Six tranche three projects are currently being advanced: Don, Northern Midlands, Tamar, Southern Midlands, the Greater South East and an augmentation of the Sassafras Wesley Vale Irrigation Scheme. This funding will enable work to progress on these important irrigation projects, which will more than double
When it comes to energy, the budget has two key points to note:
Power bills are on the way up, a 30% increase is forecasted, it will be interesting to see how locally this impacts us in Tasmania. Generation costs for our power shouldn’t be increasing but the price the power is worth on the national grid is going up….watch this space.
The $20 billion, announced last week, will impact Marinus Link and TasNetworks transmission expansion plans,. It is worth noting the funding is in the form of low-interest loans, not grants. So, as a State, we will need to pay this loan back.
The Government will increase the 2022–23 Permanent Migration Program planning level from 160,000 to 195,000 (again this was released post the Jobs and Skills Summit).
The Government will provide $67.5 million over four years from 2022–23 (and $12.4 million per year ongoing from 2025–26) to expand and enhance the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme. The TFGA did not welcome this election commitment, as it effectively abolishes the proposed Agriculture Visa.
The Government has committed $76.4 million over four years from 2022–23 for outcomes from the Jobs and Skills Summit to help build a bigger, better-trained and more productive workforce, boost real wages and living standards, and create more opportunities for more Australians. As previously noted in our post regarding the Job and Skills Summit, $42.2 million over two years from 2022–23 for the Department of Home Affairs to increase visa processing capacity.
The Government will provide $921.7 million over five years from 2022–23 to strengthen Australia’s Vocational Education and Training system and address skills shortages. This includes providing 480,000 fee-free Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and vocational education places in industries and regions with skills shortages. I have mixed feelings about this announcement. Tasmania has a gap in our vocational and technical training. We just don’t do enough of it. In addition to this, I’m not sure the TAFE curriculum meets the needs of Tasmanian agriculture.
The Government will provide $61.9 million over two years from 2022–23 to provide aged and veterans pensioners a once-off credit of $4,000 to their Work Bonus income bank. The temporary income bank top-up will increase the amount pensioners can earn during 2022–23, from $7,800 to $11,800, before their pension is reduced. This supports pensioners who want to work, or work more hours, to do so without losing their pension. As I have said before, for me this just doesn’t go far enough. Tasmania needs the cap removed. Tasmania has a disproportionate aged population compared with the rest of Australia. Nationally we face ballooning cost of living pressures. Enabling older Tasmanians to work more if they want to would be a step in the right direction for all involved.
The Government will provide $4.0 million over four years from 2022–23 to establish an Inspector General of Animal Welfare. We expect this will be an expansion of Inspector General of Live Animal Exports to cover all animal welfare standards and reporting. I would like to see more information regarding this announcement and will keep you posted as more information comes to light.
The Government will provide $134.1 million over four years from 2022–23 (and $3.3 million per year ongoing) to bolster biosecurity capability. This comprises:
This is a mix of mostly old announcements with a bit of new money regarding detector dogs.
Health and aged care
The Government has committed $61.8 million over six years from 2022–23 to fund local health investment projects across rural and regional locations to improve primary care outcomes and reduce the pressure on hospital emergency departments.
An additional $143.3 million will be delivered over four years to support access to healthcare in rural and regional areas, by investing in primary care services, training, workforce incentives and trials for innovative models of care.
Tasmanian rural health desperately needs support. It is not an area I know enough about, but we will watch closely for further detail on these announcements.
The Government will provide:
The Government will provide $757.7 million over five years from 2022–23 to improve mobile and broadband connectivity and resilience in rural and regional Australia. Key initiatives include:
Many of our members struggle daily with connectivity. Let’s see if any of these programs make a difference.
Again I would like to thank NFF, ADF, Cattle Council, and the TFGA
teams for the comprehensive budget breakdown. On a sneaky side note, if
asked what do I think was a missed opportunity in this budget? A better
tax regime for Australia’s gas resources – heaven forbid we should get
more money from resources we actually own.