Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has unveiled the 2020 Federal Budget, which focuses on getting Australians back into employment and includes some small benefits for those hit hardest by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Outlining the 2020-2021 budget in the Lower House on Tuesday evening, Frydenberg said Australians have been “tested like never before” over the past 12 months, citing floods, bushfires and of course the coronavirus global health crisis which has had a devastating impact on the economy and resulted in recession.
“Many Australians, through no fault of their own, are doing it tough,” he told the House of Representaties. “Lives have been lost. Businesses have closed. Jobs have gone. Our cherished way of life has been put on hold.”
Frydenberg also praised front line health care workers for their courage, commitment, and compassion and vowed: “The Great Depression and two World Wars did not bring Australia to its knees, neither will COVID-19.”
Getting into the numbers, Frydenberg said the country’s net debt will increase from $491m in the last financial year to $703bn, while the budget deficit will hit $213.7bn in the 2020/21 financial year, and deficits are predicted for the coming decade. The treasury also expects unemployment to hit 8 per cent before the end of the year.
However there was some good news for pensioners – as well as those in receipt of welfare payments such as the disability support pension, carer payment, family tax benefit, carer allowance and Commonwealth seniors health card – as the treasurer confirmed they would receive a $250 cash payment by the end of the year, followed by a second $250 payment in March.
This will be welcome news for many due to the fact that the Age Pension, among other payments, did not rise as usual last month in line with indexation. And the second payment will come just two months before the next budget is unveiled in May 2021.
Following a terrible year for the aged care sector, the government will also spend $1.6bn on an additional 23,000 home care places – however this is still far from enough when you consider there are around 100,000 older Australians on the waiting list.
Other key aspects of the budget include: a labour hire credit which will see business paid up to $200 per week to hire young Australians, an extension of the first home loan deposit scheme and a $1bn research boost for universities.
While many Australians will also benefit from tax cuts. Stage two income tax cuts, which were set to begin in 2022, will be brought forward to this financial year and backdated to July, reports The Guardian. Prime Minister Scott Morrison didn’t waste any time praising the tax cuts on social media, writing: “More than 11 million hard-working Australians will get a tax cut backdated to 1 July this year as part of our plan to create jobs, rebuild our economy and secure Australia’s future.
“Under our changes, this includes more than 7 million Australians who will receive tax relief of $2,000 or more this year.”
Tonight’s budget was in stark contrast to last year when Frydenberg announced a surplus of $7.1 billion. “The budget is back in the black and Australia is back on track,” he said at the time. “For the first time in 12 years our nation is again paying our way. Australia is stronger than when we came to government six years ago.”