As has been a trend in recent years, the Federal Budget was both good and bad for women. We welcomed measures such as the move to ban direct cross-examination of DFV victims by their perpetrators, as well as some 'long overdue movement in the housing affordability space,' as the Equality Rights Alliance said.
We were also relieved to see some suggested measures left out of the budget, such as more cuts to paid parental leave and family tax benefits. However, as ERA also wrote, simply taking these cuts off the table does not constitute action on women’s economic empowerment.
Other than that, let's look at who will benefit and who was penalised. We'll discuss some of these points in more detail over the next few months.
- First-home buyers: it looks as if first-home buyers will be able to dip into super to fund their deposit after all. The government has also outlined a range of measures that it expects to help first-home buyers, including increased restrictions on foreign investors, new incentives to promote investment in affordable housing and a new super rule that encourages retirees to sell their family homes.
- Families: the freeze on Medicare benefits has ended!
- Jobseekers: a $1.5 billion fund will be established to support the skilling of Australian workers. Over the next four years it will support up to 300,000 more apprentices, trainees and higher-level skilled workers. Job seekers will also benefit largely from the abundance of new jobs that are set to be created by large-scale infrastructure investments.
- Small business owners: small businesses may continue to immediately deduct purchases for eligible assets costing less than $20,000.
- School students: from 2018, the base amount of government funding for every primary school student will be $10,953 and for every secondary student $13,764.
- Seniors: $3.1 million will be provided to reinstate the pensioner concession card for pensioners who were no longer entitled following recent changes to the assets test.
Although it may not be everyone's idea of fun, we always encourage women to be aware of the Federal Budget, and how it may effect them. We hope this summary helped clear up some questions – and raise some new ones!
- Families: while the freeze has ended, the Medicare Levy has been increased from 2% to 2.5% of taxable income from July 1, 2019. The majority of the $8.2 billion in revenue from this measure is expected to help the government close the gap in funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
- Higher education students: students will be required to pay 7.5% more of the cost of their course fees. This will occur gradually as a 1.82% annual increase over four years. The minimum repayment threshold for HECS, which was $54,869, is now $42,000, and attracts a 1%pa repayment rate.
- Foreign investors: applying immediately, foreign investors will be charged an annual vacancy tax if their property is not occupied or leased for at least six months a year. This measure will provide the government with $16.3 million over four years, but is also expected to increase housing supply.
- Welfare recipients: a strict new system will be implemented to refocus the work-for-the dole program to penalise job seekers for “deliberate non-compliance”.