For the first time in 15 years, Australia will see its first budget surplus come in over $20 billion, nearly five times bigger than the original $4.2 billion forecast in May’s federal budget.
However, the billion-dollar sugar hit won’t be used to provide further cost of living relief for struggling Australians, with Treasurer Jim Chalmers saying the government plans to stick to the budget for the cost-of-living relief package already in place.
“We’re not currently working on a new package of cost-of-living relief, we’re focused on rolling out billions of dollars in cost-of-living relief that we have already announced,” he said.
According to Chalmers, the government plans to bank the money for now and use it as a buffer for the next financial year, when the budget surplus forecast is expected to dip back.
“What a much better budget position allows for, is it gives you the flexibility down the track, in future budgets,” Chalmers said.
“We’re now in the subsequent budget year and so we’re not looking for ways to spend out of last year’s budget. Even if we wanted to, that wouldn’t be a goer.
“The approach that we’ve taken is textbook fiscal policy in the circumstances, targeted relief for people but not at the expense of repairing the budget.”
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese attributed the surplus to the government’s “responsible economic management” and believes Australians will welcome the news even though many households across the country continue to grapple with the rising cost of living.
“The fact that we’ve turned a $78 billion deficit that was forecast under the Liberal National Party government just over a year ago into a surplus that’s in excess of $4 billion is a positive thing,” Albanese said.
“It will take pressure off inflation, and the government’s been determined to do that.”
Despite what Albanese believes, many Australians have started to find other ways to help manage the constant financial stress.
Seniors have started to look at retirement villages as alternative living options to their own homes as independent living units are 48 per cent cheaper than the median house price found in the same suburb.
Retirement Living Council of Australia executive director Daniel Gannon says retirement villages can offer older Australians a profitable path to affordable living, particularly for those who may find it hard to get by with their fixed incomes and the increasing cost of living pressures.
“At a time when national housing affordability is eroding, and health care costs are also growing, the value proposition of retirement communities is strengthening,” he said.
More Australias have also started opting for generic brands of popular supermarket items to save money at the checkout.
Research from Compare the Market showed that nearly three-quarters of Australians have chosen the generic option over the more popular name brands during their weekly shopping in the past 12 months.
On top of that, a report from COTA found that a staggering 6 in 10 seniors say that the cost of living is placing an enormous strain on their budget.
They found that a striking 45 per cent believe that their situation is worse, a significant rise from 2021 (33 per cent) and 2019 (27 per cent).
COTA Chief Executive Patricia Sparrow said that “the report’s findings underscore the need for the Australian government to develop a national strategy for older people so policymakers take urgent steps to address the concerns of older Australians to ensure they are more secure and resilient in the future.”