See links to Budget statements here.
This post includes commentary from Australian Council of Social Service, Public Health Association of Australia, Consumers Health Forum, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), Council on the Ageing Australia, Royal Australasian College of Physicians, SNAICC, The Australasian College of Paramedicine, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Oxfam Australia, People with Disability Australia, The Climate Council, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia, Refugee Council of Australia, Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association, Australian Academy of Science, Australian Red Cross, Everybody’s Home, Australian Education Union, Amnesty International Australia, Anti-Poverty Network SA, Australian Medical Association, National Shelter, CBM Australia and the Australian Disability and Development Consortium, Medicines Australia, Allied Health Professions Australia, Australian College of Nursing, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Jesuit Social Services.
Strong measures but deep concern on low income support, future revenue needs
Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS)
ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said:
“This is a budget that delivers on some of the government’s important election commitments, and we welcome them.
We’re very pleased to see the $560m investment in community services, as well as investment in aged care, paid parental leave and child care.
We now also have a new housing accord, which lays the foundations for increasing the supply of social and affordable housing in Australia to deal with the housing crisis.
Other measures we welcome include provision for at least $3b in disaster payments over the forwards, $100m in solar banks to open up solar power for renters and low-income people, investment in The Voice and an Anti-racism Strategy.
We remain deeply concerned about the lack of action to lift the incomes of people living on payments like JobSeeker, which is just $48 a day. There are over 3 million people living in poverty, with many on JobSeeker and Youth Allowance forced to skip meals and essential medication, and live in their cars.
In a wealthy country like Australia, we should not condemn people to living on such inadequate incomes.
People on the lowest incomes face multiple crises including high inflation, 150,000 more people unemployed in 2023, rents up 10 per cent in just one year, high debt as well as multiple disasters. So, this must be the beginning and not the end of the hard work this government must do. We must see an urgent increase in income support for people on the lowest incomes in Australia.
We’re also very troubled to see that budget spending is forecast to increase by only 0.3 per cent per annum when we know we must deliver critical essential services to meet community need. It’s obvious the government will need more revenue to meet the community’s urgent needs, and for this reason, we cannot afford the $19b a year tax cuts starting in 2024.”
Some small, welcome first steps but where are the $s for prevention?
Public Health Association of Australia
The initial $3.2 million investment in the October Budget for the Centre for Disease Control is important and welcome, the Public Health Association of Australia has said.
The Centre is the most substantial public health decision to come out of a federal Budget in many years.
“At the moment the Centre for Disease Control is not about the money but the process,” PHAA CEO Adj Prof Terry Slevin said.
“The next step is what will be in the May Budget.”
As Health Minister Butler told Mr Slevin in a webinar: “We’ve committed funding to make sure that we work with states and territories, work with the sector, including with organisations like yours, Terry, that have taken such a deep interest in this, and make sure we get this model right for the future.”
We also welcome the initial steps and $3.2m toward creating a National Health Sustainability and Climate Unit and develop Australia’s first National Health and Climate Strategy.
We will continue advocating and working will our allies and partners in the months ahead to influence what we hope will result in greater detail and investment in the May 2023 Budget.
First Nations’ health
We welcome the Budget’s investments in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which are coupled with efforts to enact the Uluru Statement and hold a referendum within the next 18 months.
Measures include training up to 500 First Nations health workers through a $54.3m investment in the First Nations Health Workers Traineeship Program.
It’s also pleasing to see money to tackle Rheumatic Heart Disease, with $13.5m for the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) to offer prevention, screening and treatment programs.
This Budget also includes funding for areas which fall under the social determinants of health, such as investments in early childhood education and care, community wellbeing, women’s safety programs and funding to improve the health of LGBTQI+ Australians.
Expectations for May 2023 Budget
It is disappointing there was no new investment in actions to fulfil the National Preventive Health Strategy. We will be looking for NPHS-related investments in May, as well as developments in how the government will measure and improve peoples’ wellbeing.
It remains the case that about 2% of total health expenditure is on public and preventive health.
We have great expectations that the Labor Government will shift that, and increase investment over its term to redress the imbalance and reduce the focus on treating health problems which could have been prevented.
One way of funding those investments is to not proceed with the Stage 3 tax cuts.
A ‘no surprises’ budget but true health reform awaits
Consumers Health Forum
Consumers Health Forum, the peak body representing Australian health consumers, acknowledges the Government’s efforts to strengthen Medicare and primary care but says there is a long way to go before true health system transformation.
“This is the budget we were expecting but perhaps not the one we dreamt of,” CHF CEO Dr Elizabeth Deveny said. “It is a ‘no-surprise’ budget that delivers on the government’s election commitments, but the promise of true health system reform is still ahead of us.
“Health consumers will be very pleased about the reduction in the cost of medicines but for those on pensions or very low incomes, it would have been good for the PBS safety net threshold to be reduced further,” Dr Deveny said.
“We applaud the government’s commitment to strengthening Medicare. One of the underlying principles of universal healthcare is that consumers are able to access services, when and where they want them.”
CHF said that the funding of several initiatives to improve system navigation was evidence that the health system makes it too difficult for people to find the service they need without expert guidance.
“What health consumers want is for their health journey to be as seamless as other parts of their life – where services can be accessed via digital channels, face-to-face or a hybrid,” Dr Deveny said.
“We have a long way to go before that is achieved due to fragmentation of services, various models of care and a range of stop-gap measures.”
Dr Deveny said that, as stated in the Wellbeing budget paper, measuring what matters is the ultimate test of system performance.
“What we want to see in the future is that the consumers’ experience of care is measured, and that the consumers’ voice is hard-wired into all policy and healthcare decisions,” she said.
“Sadly, the budget did not include any funding to improve the health literacy of consumers, which empowers them and gives them the tools to share in decision-making around their healthcare.”
Dr Deveny said while CHF applauded the investment in housing and climate change, both of which directly impact health, it would have been good to see a greater focus on preventative health.
CHF’s views on healthcare budget initiatives:
- Mental health – while restoration of psychiatric telehealth services loading in rural and regional areas is welcome, we would like to see the commitment to mental health services extend beyond Headspace and 10 session Better Access.
- The commitment to strengthening First Nations’ health is very welcome. Highlights are the additional 500 workers and traineeships codesigned with NACCHO, 17 new clinics, doubling the funding for rheumatic heart disease and 120 more dialysis chairs
- Rural and Regional – welcome the workforce and training packages and incentive payments to GPs with advanced skills.
- Would like to see models of care and workforce solutions in remote communities
- We called for a CDC in our election platform so good to see this commitment.
- We also welcome the establishment of a National Health Sustainability and Climate Unit.
Welcome investments for health, aged care, child care and more
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF)
The ANMF has welcomed funding for health and aged care and cost of living relief in the Budget.
ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said the significant investment is the first-step in fixing the troubled aged care sector, by providing support for staff ratios and other measures which will ensure safe, quality care for older Australians living in nursing homes.
“We commend the Government for recognising the need to prioritise funding for health and aged care in the Budget, particularly during these difficult economic times,” Butler said.
“We welcome funding to improve aged care and increase access to healthcare, including reducing the costs of prescriptions, which will ensure that everyday healthcare is more affordable and accessible for all Australians, when and where they need it.
“The Government’s plan for boosting wages in female-dominated industries, improving gender equity and addressing cost-of-living pressures, will provide a platform to finally commence reforming aged care by recruiting and retaining nurses and workers, so desperately needed across the sector.
“Nurses, midwives and carers will also benefit from increased access to childcare subsidies and the extension of paid parental leave to 26 weeks and more affordable housing for these essential workers.
“Furthermore, funding for a new National Nurse and Midwife Health Service will provide much-needed health and well-being support for frontline nurses and midwives across the country.
Strong commitment to aged care, other welcome promises for older Australians
Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia
COTA Australia CEO Chief Executive Ian Yates welcomed the Budget, saying it has “kept its promises to older Australians and gone further in some areas”.
“Looking at the Budget as a whole, the Government’s focus on reducing inflation as soon as possible, helping get from 7.75 per cent this year to 3.5 per cent in 2023/24, will be a welcome relief to older Australians on fixed incomes and will protect the savings of retirees and people saving for retirement,” he said.
COTA Australia provided comprehensive comments on major funding areas, as outlined below:
The Budget builds on the previous government’s work to implement many of the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission; extends measures that had only been short term funded; and funds the additional commitments Labor made during the federal election including to extend care hours, require 24 hour nursing cover, improve transparency and improve the quality of food and the meals experience in both residential and home care.
COTA particularly welcomed:
- Higher pay for all aged care staff to follow from the work value case currently before the Fair Work Commission, for which the Government has already made a provision.
- At least 15,000 of the free TAFE training places being reserved for aged care to help address workforce pressures.
- The creation of a dedicated Age Care Complaints Commissioner in the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
- More than $310 million for the essential upgrading of IT infrastructure and systems to support the new Support at Home program, greater provider transparency and other reform measures.
- Full funding for 24 hour, 7 day nursing in all residential care services from 1 July 2023.
- Increasing the minutes of care for each aged care resident from the new average of 200 minutes (including 40 of nursing) required from 1 July 2023 to 215 minutes from 1 October 2024.
- Implementing a national personal care worker registration scheme and a Code of Conduct.
- Creating an independent Inspector General of Aged Care as recommended by the Royal Commission and getting the Office of the Inspector General started in 2022/23,
- Providing better food services using a four year funded program to support and train the sector.
- Implementation of the new Support at Home program by 1 July 2024, which will require testing and finalisation of the new single assessment service, design of the new service list and the IT systems needed to support greater choice, self-management, and transparency. In the meantime, the government will be moving to cap home care administration fees until unit pricing is introduced.
- Continuation of the Disability Support for Older Australians program from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023 – an essential but still transitional step to fully implementing the Royal Commission recommendation for older Australians with severe disabilities to be treated in an equivalent way to the NDIS.
- Implementing new measures to establish enhanced financial and care service transparency of providers to both the government and older people seeking and using care
- Supporting the new Independent Hospitals and Aged Care Pricing Authority to be ready to recommend independently determined fair and reasonable service pricing by 1 July 2024
The Government has also extended COVID-19 support to the sector by a substantial $845 million.
Self-evidently much is being done and will be done in aged care reform with the nearly $4 billion committed in this Budget, with aged care wage increases still to come. We congratulate not only Ministers Butler and Wells on their hard work so far, but also the evident commitment of the Prime Minister and Treasurer to this reform process being given priority.
Much more remains to be done to fully implement the Royal Commission recommendations and to achieve a world class aged care system of which all Australians can be proud and have confidence in.
In the lead up to the next Budget COTA will be strongly engaging on matters still under consideration, such as improving services for people with severe disability, and ensuring that the new Support at Home program really delivers for older people and their families.”
This Budget has kept the promises to reduce the PBS co-payment, revamp the primary health system, establish Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, and rural health provision. These initiatives will both improve the health of older people, and also help with the cost of living. COTA Australia will continue to advocate for better dental care for older Australians.
The government’s commitment to addressing Australia’s housing crisis is welcome. Spiralling rents have been especially difficult for older people on fixed incomes. We look forward to the National Housing Accord delivering affordable housing. That Accord should include measures that promote more accessible housing that is suitable for everyone as we age. As that Accord is negotiated, COTA Australia will be focused on ensuring it fixes Commonwealth Rent Assistance, which currently falls far short of making rental housing affordable for pensioners and other low income people.
Older workers in Australia often face ageism, and sometimes regulated discrimination. Improving the participation rate of older workers should be a priority, both for their wellbeing and so the country can benefit fully from their skills and experience. The one-off $4,000 credit to the Work Bonus scheme until 30 June 2023 announced at the Jobs Summit was welcome but longer term solutions are needed.
Reforms to the workplace relations system that enhance flexibility for older workers are an important step. So too is improving the anti-discrimination framework – flagged in this budget. We look forward to working with the Government to develop longer term solutions to improving the participation rate for older workers.
The commitment to gender equality is clear and welcome in this Budget. Older women face many of the same pressures all women face, but after a lifetime of discrimination, also face an accumulation of financial and social barriers. Initiatives in workforce, housing and education will all be of assistance. COTA Australia is particularly pleased to see the focus on the gender superannuation gap. We look forward to working with Government on future policies in housing and superannuation to solve the poverty trap faced by too many older women.
Paid Paternal Leave and Childcare
Taking care of children is not just a parenting question, it often includes grandparents as well. When childcare is not accessible, grandparents often sacrifice their own later careers to provide childcare so their own children can go back to work. The initiatives to expand Paid Parental Leave to 26 weeks, and to improve the affordability of childcare, will help many older Australians.
Disaster resilience and preparedness
Older people are among the most vulnerable to natural disaster. The longer term focus of the disaster readiness initiative is particularly helpful to older people living in disaster prone communities. We welcome the focus on reducing the cost of insurance, and making insurance more accessible and better understood. It means that when disaster strikes, older Australians on fixed incomes will not be left with nothing.
“This is a Budget that honours election commitments and seeks to steady an economy that at present represents real risks to older people,” Mr Yates said. “We welcome it and look forward to further advancing its initiatives to achieve a just, fair and achieving Australia for all, including older people.”
More work needed
While the Albanese Government’s first Budget has made considerable commitments to reform in the early years, there is still considerable work that needs to be done to close the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
SNAICC – National Voice for our Children CEO Catherine Liddle said reforms to make childcare cheaper and lifting parental leave were welcome.
“But specific commitments are needed if barriers are going to be removed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families,” Ms Liddle said.
“The Budget announcement around specific funding to increase access to playgroups for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is very welcome.
“We look forward to seeing more detail on the $12.4 million overall funding allocated to playgroups and libraries.
“We were happy to see the Federal Government investing $33.7 million over four years to meet their commitment to changing the activity test so Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will be able to access 36 hours of subsidised childcare a fortnight.
“This increase of 12 hours a fortnight is a significant step forward.
“But all the evidence says what will make a real difference in making sure our children meet developmental milestones and are ready for school is scrapping the activity test.
“This was recommended for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the Interim Report of the Senate Select Committee on Work and Care, which also recommends an immediate increase in funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early education and care services.”
Ms Liddle said it was reassuring to see the $10.2 million commitment to establishing the Early Childhood Care and Development Policy Partnership in this Budget.
“This partnership under the Closing the Gap Agreement will develop policies on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child protection, family services, and early education and care.”
SNAICC will continue to advocate for evidence-based changes to reduce the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.
“This includes funding actions under the Safe and Supported, the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.
“We are concerned there is no funding in this Budget for Safe and Supported, which has the potential to be a game changer in keeping our children safe and connected to family and culture.
“It also shifts the way Government works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, making sure they lead the decisions that impact their lives.
“Unless these commitments are backed up with funding they are just words.”
Welcome start, but falls short
Royal Australasian College of Physicians
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has welcomed key wellbeing measures and the delivery of health election commitments in the October Budget 2022, but says it falls short of what is required to protect public healthcare in the evolving crisis.
RACP President and paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small said the RACP is pleased to see the delivery of priorities for early childhood including the increase to paid parental leave and a significant boost to early learning and childcare.
“Investing in our children is the best way to improve Australians’ lifelong health and reduce unnecessary burden on our public healthcare system,” Dr Small said.
“These nation-building investments will provide significant benefits to Australia’s wellbeing and the health system for decades to come.”
“We are pleased to see the inclusion of wellbeing measures – this is an important development of budget processes that provides a more holistic view of the impact of the budget on community wellbeing.
The RACP has also welcomed steps forward on several initiatives physicians have been calling for including:
- $314.8 million to help close the gap in First Nations health, including more money for infrastructure, workforce, training, and programs delivered through Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.
- $200 million for schools’ wellbeing programs and $270 million for updates to schools equipment and ventilation, both related to the RACP Kids Covid Catch Up plan.
- $3.4 million for establishing a National Health Sustainability Unit to drive the development of the Government’s National Strategy on Climate Health and Wellbeing.
- $3.2 million to undertake initial design for establishing an Australian Centre for Disease Control to improve pandemic preparedness and prevent chronic disease.
- Continuation of necessary Covid-19 measures including providing RATs to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, NDIS participants, aged care facilities and supported disability accommodation.
- $2.5 billion for the election commitment to increase residential care staffing minutes and require 24/7 nurse coverage.
- $10.5 million to establish the Office for Youth
- $23.9 million for the establishment of a National Centre of Excellence in Intellectual Disability.
Dr Small said: “While the Budget is a welcome start for many important initiatives, it falls well short of the investment required to halt the crisis we face in public health.
“The Government must take further steps to address workforce challenges because our hospitals are on their knees. This includes training more specialists, especially in rural and regional areas.
“Chronic residual burnout of healthcare workers affects all patients, families, and the wider community. The passionate work of hospital and other health workers is masking a deeper and worsening crisis,” Dr Small said.
Dr Small said prevention measures were another key area where the Budget falls short.
“Until we see our healthcare system as something that prevents illness and invest accordingly to reduce future burden, the situation will continue to worsen. The Government must take a longer view and plan for the system we need in the decades to come,” Dr Small said.
Other areas requiring action to halt the healthcare crisis include:
- Expansion of telehealth and other digital health services so that all Australians can access quality care wherever they live.
- Investment in innovative models of care, including developing care pathways for specialist medicine referrals for chronic and complex diseases.
- Key measures for children’s health that are left unaddressed from the Covid-19 review.
- Action to address the inequitable impacts of the pandemic on children highlighted by the Shergold report.
- More funding will be needed to address the impacts of climate change on health to deliver a climate-ready and climate-friendly health system as per the RACP’s Healthy Climate Future campaign.
We are pleased to see this positive start by the new Government, and we look forward to working closely with them to deliver the health system that Australians need and deserve.
- Some of the key RACP pre-budget asks included:
- Ensure Medicare supports equity of access to care for low income and underserviced patients, particularly in rural and regional areas
- Fund the reinstatement of all telephone-based specialist consultations, including those for complex consultations
- Reduce the negative impacts of the digital divide by funding videoconferencing technology packages to support capacity building for patients, especially those in priority and underserviced groups.
- Increase the number of Specialist Training Program (STP) places to grow access to specialist medicine in rural and regional communities and build a pipeline of specialists
- Invest in bolstering the healthcare workforce through national strategies for flexible training and work hours, parental leave and other support mechanisms.
- Fully fund a Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, including consultation with the RACP in its design
- Fully fund the effective implementation of the National Preventive Health Strategy which commits 5% of health expenditure to prevention over 10 years to 2030.
Some welcome news but lifting income support must be an immediate priority
Jesuit Social Services
The Federal Budget 2022-23, delivered during a time of global economic uncertainty, contains some welcome investments that will make a positive difference to the lives of millions. But, with the Federal Government emphasising the importance of wellbeing for all Australians it also represents a missed opportunity to improve outcomes for some of the country’s most marginalised people by failing to lift income support rates, says Jesuit Social Services.
“This Federal Budget has been delivered at a very challenging time, with rising inflation, soaring fuel and energy prices and increased cost-of-living pressures not only being experienced in Australia but around the word. Many of the key investments in this Budget, such as cheaper child care, extended parental leave and making medication cheaper, will benefit many at a time of unprecedented challenges,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.
“We also welcome the cross-Government accord to increase the supply of social and affordable housing across Australia. Through our programs we work every day with people who have experienced homelessness, inappropriate or unsafe housing, housing instability and stress, and we see the impact it has on all aspects of their lives. We hope that this initiative makes a tangible difference to the lives of people who need support,” says Ms Edwards.
Ms Edwards says that it is extremely disappointing there is no commitment to increase the Jobseeker payment and other related income support measures.
“It is concerning that Jobseeker recipients will continue to be forced to live in poverty and have to struggle to pay for everyday essentials. The Federal Budget needs to work for every Australian, not just some, and sadly there is not enough here to address rising inequality which has been exacerbated during the pandemic and natural disasters.”
Ms Edwards says the organisation is pleased to acknowledge the $99 million First Nations Justice package, highlighted by additional funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and funding for up to 30 community-led justice reinvestment initiatives across Australia.
“Justice reinvestment means investing in communities of need to address the drivers of crime, prevent anti-social behaviour from occurring in the first place and keep people connected with education, employment and culture. Ultimately, this results in less crime, fewer victims and fewer people having contact with costly and ineffective prison systems,” says Ms Edwards.
“Our research into locational disadvantage con