The Albanese Government announced funding decisions in the Federal Budget last night that will impact the lives of millions. We’re here to help you pull out the bits you need to know.
First, there are two things you need to know before delving into the facts and figures.
- We are on track to reach almost 8 per cent inflation in December.
- Wages have failed to keep up with cost-of-living for a decade.
So while this federal budget from the Albanese Government is a positive change in tune from the woeful Morrison Government budget earlier this year, it still is just the start of repairing the damage and neglect of a decade of anti-worker budgets by the previous Liberal-National government.
Given that our electricity bills are predicted to go up by 56 per cent and gas by 44 per cent in the next 18 months, the Government must act to ease the cost-of-living pain for Australians.
But before we explore what the missing puzzle piece is, here are a few positives for workers in Australia.
Paid parental leave expanded
The budget has followed through with the Albanese Government’s commitment to expand paid parental leave.
After years of union-led campaigning, we finally have had the paid parental leave expanded so step-by-step it will reach up to 26 weeks by 2026 along with other changes that will make the scheme fairer for working women.
It is important to note the expanded scheme will be paid at the National Minimum wage – which is around half of median earnings – and with no superannuation payments.
Affordable early childhood education and care
To reduce the cost of childcare over the next four years, new subsidies will cover up to 90 per cent of fees for families earning less than $530,000.
It’s still a long way from free childcare but any step to reduce the costs will allow more women to work.
According to the Government’s estimates, these reforms will increase the hours of working parents with young kids by up to 1.4 million hours per week which equates to around 37,000 full-time workers.
More opportunity for TAFE and university students
Since 2013, 70,000 apprenticeships and traineeships have disappeared from the Australian economy. As a result, tens of thousands fewer skilled workers have entered the workforce each year, which has contributed to the worker shortage across Australia.
Funding to provide 180,000 fee-free TAFE places is a welcome step forward in undoing the former Coalition Government deliberate underfunding of education. And it’s good news for those wanting to learn a trade or pick up new skills.
The budget will also fund 20,000 additional university places for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
A glimmer of hope for struggling renters and first home buyers
The announcement of the Housing Accord is the first meaningful action by a Federal Government in many years aimed at addressing the severe lack of affordable housing.
Rents and housing prices have galloped away from the grasp of many workers in Australia whose pay packets fail to come close to the price tags thanks to a decade of slow or non-existent wage growth.
The Housing Accord, along with other measures in the budget, will see 1 million new homes built, including a total of 50,000 affordable houses for those that need it most.
By bringing superannuation funds and all levels of Government together to tackle the problem, the Housing Accord will increase investment in affordable housing stock while providing strong returns for workers’ retirement savings.
The missing piece of the puzzle
Many of these decisions will ease some of the acute cost-of-living stress felt across the country. However, they do not complete the puzzle.
Workers are still facing real wage cuts, a growing gender pay gap and rising insecure work.
One missing piece is that fact that the Albanese Government still hasn’t reversed its support for the stage three tax cuts – the benefits of which go almost entirely to the wealthiest people in the country.
But the largest puzzle piece we still need is real wage growth.
The budget makes it clear that modernising our workplace laws, including by moving beyond a one-size-fits all bargaining system is essential to securing the wage growth that working people need.
We look forward to the Government acting on its election commitment to deliver real wage growth through the legislation they will introduce this week.
Work and workplaces have changed. We need work laws to suit now and the future. It just makes sense.