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Reactions to the Federal Budget: part two

Introduction by Croakey: Health, community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and services have welcomed significant Budget measures on health and cost of living relief, but pointed to disappointing missed opportunities on addressing many of the social and cultural determinants of health.

This post compiles statements from: SNAICC, Homelessness Australia, Advocacy for Inclusion, Refugee Council of Australia, Australian Dental Association, Mission Australia, Dementia Australia, Suicide Prevention Australia, Australasian College of Paramedics, National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance), Independent MP for Mackellar Dr Sophie Scamps, Allied Health Professions Australia, Wilderness Society, Murray Darling environment peaks, Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA), Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Doctors Reform Society, Australian College of Nursing, National Mental Health Consumer Alliance, Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

*** Additional responses added in from 12 May: Institute of Community Directors Australia, Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) and Australian Health Promotion Association.

See our earlier post with responses from: Australian Medical Association (AMA), Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP), Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, Public Health Association of Australia, Everybody’s Home, Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Close the Gap, Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA), Catholic Health Australia, community services provider cohealth, Australian Alcohol and other Drugs Council (AADC), Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association, and People with Disability Australia.


Missed opportunity for Indigenous children, families

SNAICC – National Voice for our Children

SNAICC says Budget 2023 is a missed opportunity by the Albanese Government to deliver funding that supports its commitments to improve life outcomes and safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

CEO Catherine Liddle welcomed the Government’s commitments to make childcare cheaper for all families and support the skills and training of workers in early childhood education.

But she said much more needs to be done to remove the barriers facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families accessing early education and to close the gap so children can thrive.

The Closing the Gap outcomes on children being developmentally ready for school, and reducing the over representation in out-of-home care are off track and worsening.

“We recognise the Albanese Government has already announced initiatives such as reforming the Activity Test so all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children can access 36 hours of subsidised childcare a fortnight from July 2023,” Liddle said.

“This is welcome but to really make the difference so our children meet developmental milestones and are ready for school, the Activity Test must be removed.

“This was recognised by the Senate Select Committee on Work and Care, which also recommended an immediate increase in funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early education and care services.

“We are disappointed not to see Budget-backed efforts to reduce the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.

“Earlier this year the Government released Action Plans under Safe and Supported, the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.

“Safe and supported has the potential to be a game changer in keeping our children safe and connected to family and culture and out of the child protection and youth justice systems.

“But unless the commitments are backed up by funding they are just words on paper.

“We acknowledge the Government’s increases to working age payments which will benefit about 150,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

“What we’d also like to see is a renewed commitment to the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap priority reforms, so Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people drive some of these Budget commitments, such as the $200m to tackle community disadvantage through place-based reforms.”


Some help for renters, but no social housing boost

Homelessness Australia

Australia’s peak body for homelessness said the Budget will put desperately needed dollars in the hands of struggling renters, but the huge challenge of inadequate supply of social housing and overstretched homelessness services remains to be addressed.

Homelessness Australia CEO Kate Colvin said the increase in the base rate of JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and Austudy was welcome but will be quickly eclipsed by further rental increases.

“Every dollar helps. But unfortunately, many recipients will still be treading water and more rent rises are expected. The truth is, the housing crisis and pressure on homelessness services will continue,” she said.

Colvin said an opportunity was missed to invest in a rapid rehousing fund to acquire properties that could be almost immediately made available to homeless families.

“While the Budget includes a financial surplus, it has left a social deficit of unresolved homelessness that will create hardship for families and financial costs to the community in future years.”

Colvin welcomed:

  • resources for First Nations remote housing in the Northern Territory
  • programs to respond to domestic and family violence for women and children in First Nations communities
  • the decision to extend the investment in funds for the Equal Remuneration Order by one year,
  • expanded eligibility for Parenting Payment Single, and
  • increased income support for people who have been unemployed for more than nine months and who are over 55.

Welcome news on NDIS, but poverty still bites

Advocacy for Inclusion

A peak body for Canberrans with disabilities said the Budget delivered welcome signs of NDIS continuity and money to fix the scheme but missed the opportunity to address cost of living issues for people with disability especially on the Disability Support Pension (DSP).

Advocacy for Inclusion Acting Chief Executive Officer Craig Wallace said: “We welcome undertakings to maintain a demand driven National Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and better operational funding plus investment to improve quality and safeguards.  However Government is underinvesting in capacity building work for people with disability to engage with the scheme and to address NDIS market issues which hamper sustainability and consumer choice and control.

“We welcomed a small but significant package of COVID protection measures including income replacement for Disability Support Workers.

“There are very modest increases in income support payments including Jobseeker, Parenting Payment and Rent Assistance while Younger Disability Support Pensioners will also a receive a small increase but these are far from the levels needed to address adequacy.

“We’re disappointed for Canberrans on DSP who do not receive assistance despite being squeezed hard by cost-of-living pressures and the additional cost of disability.  We continue to call for a modest Disability and Illness supplement of $50 a week and reform of pension access arrangements so people get support in crisis.

“Our White Paper on Income Support included a model Budget which shows that people with disability face a shortfall of around $824 per fortnight on conservative estimates after paying for the bare necessities of private rental housing, groceries, on demand transport, utilities and other expenses with little left over for emergencies.

“We welcomed energy bill relief although we are still working through the detail of how assistance is accessed and we also welcomed funding to reduce the co-payment for medicines under Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

“We cautiously welcome initiatives to transition the supported employment sector out of underpayment conditions and for skills and apprenticeships among people with disability.  We note initiatives to move young people out of residential aged care but more detail is needed on how funding will lead to outcomes.

“We were disappointed not to see more dedicated investment for accessible housing and also violence prevention initiatives recommended by organisations in the sector responding to issues identified by the Disability Royal Commission.


Welcome measures on refugee supports

Refugee Council of Australia

The Refugee Council has welcomed the announcement $136 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $36 million ongoing) to support the mental health of survivors of torture and trauma before moving to Australia on humanitarian grounds.

It says this will take place through the Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma, and other culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

It also welcomes the announcement of $9.1 million in 2023–24 to extend existing Youth Transition Support services for 12 months to 30 June 2024 to continue settlement services to young refugees and migrants to improve their employment outcomes.

It notes there is no announcement on 2023-24 Refugee and Humanitarian visa numbers in the Budget, but it is hearing an announcement may come next month after the Government’s community consultation process concludes.

“The unfair and dangerous Immigration Assessment Authority is only budgeted for the next year, suggesting that the system may finally be wound up following reforms to the administrative review system. We continue to call for the abolishment of the IAA. “

The Refugee welcomes, as something it’s been calling for for over a decade, that the Government will removed the five year maximum duration of eligibility for services under the  Settlement Engagement and Transition Support Program, the National Community Hubs Program + Youth Transition Support services.


Lack of dental help a lost opportunity

 Australian Dental Association (ADA)

The ADA says the Budget was a lost opportunity to provide financial support for the nation’s most vulnerable groups who spend years on public waiting lists in the hope of getting the dental treatment they so badly need.

It notes however that the Treasurer did announce the long awaited 15% pay rise for aged care workers which at a cost of $11.3 billion over 4 years, would mean more (or retained existing) staff to attend the needs of more people in aged care.

“What’s missing in this picture though,” said CEO Damian Mitsch, “is that there is no commitment to training these aged care staff in better oral care in residential facilities, which often precipitates an onset of a range of other health conditions when oral health needs are not met.

“The government needs to follow through with training of those existing and new aged care workers to ensure they are skilled in oral care maintenance, spotting problems and calling in the dentist or taking residents to the dentist, as well as other changes we pushed for in the ADA’s Aged Care Royal Commission submission.”

Also in the Budget is an additional 360,000 eligible (lower income) adult public patients will be able to receive dental treatment, improving their oral health and helping to increase access to public dental services, set to cost $219.4 million. The funding will see services continue while longer-term, more fit-for-purpose funding arrangements are developed with states and territories.

The ADA says the only other tangible good news on the oral health front is that part of the ramped up excise on tobacco, $3.3bn, will be used to stop the illegal trade in 90m flavoured vapes pouring into the country every year.

“This is an area the ADA has pressed government on for many years and we’re pleased to see material steps being taken.”


Not enough on poverty, housing, homelessness

Mission Australia

Mission Australia said the Budget takes small positive steps but is not enough to end the housing and homelessness emergency.

It said it is concerned, amidst cost-of-living pressures, that the Government’s refusal to increase JobSeeker to at least $76 daily will force more people into poverty and homelessness.

“We acknowledge the Government’s intent to ease some of the pressures for people who are doing it tough, and their genuine discussions with the community sector. However, the lack of a substantial increase to JobSeeker and other income support payments is disappointing.”

It said there is no new initiative of scale to respond to the current devastating housing emergency – “nothing to stop more and more people being pushed into homelessness across the country”.

“The government’s efforts on housing for low-income earners remain measures that will see some more social housing eventually, but nothing by way of immediate relief for people without safe and affordable homes.”

Mission Australia said it was also concerned by the lack of investment to prevent youth homelessness. “We particularly hoped to see a commitment to more Youth Foyers nationwide to provide vital housing, education and employment opportunities and help young people who are homeless or at risk to thrive.”

See its Twitter thread


Welcome support for aged care, dementia

Dementia Australia

Dementia Australia welcomed the significant investment in the aged care workforce and dementia specific initiatives in the Budget including a Clinical Quality Registry, investment in rarer forms of dementia and funding for longer GP consultations, which will benefit people living with dementia, their families and carers.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said the $98.2 million for longer GP consultations will support the diagnosis experience and the ongoing disease management for people living with dementia, their families and carers.

“The 15 per cent increase in wages for the whole aged care workforce is greatly appreciated but this is not just about numbers – it’s also about building capacity of the aged care workforce to deliver quality care to the more than 400,000 Australians living with dementia,” McCabe said.

Dementia Australia will continue to advocate for compulsory dementia education for new and existing workers.

“We know dementia education leads to a reduction in high-risk incidents, lower rates of inappropriate use of medication and more positive staff attitudes and morale, which ultimately results in better service delivery and quality of life for people living with dementia,” McCabe said, adding:

“We welcome the ongoing progress made by the Albanese Government in addressing key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.”

Other key measures i include:

  • Investment in rarer forms of dementia – $75,000 for research to assist improving care for children with dementia and $2.2 million over five years for a Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease scheme.
  • $112 million for Australians living in residential aged care to receive more regular visits, health assessments and care planning through additional incentive payments to GPs and primary care clinics.
  • $166.8 million for additional Home Care Packages.
  • $8.2 million for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and $1.6 million for an interim First Nations Aged Care Commissioner.
  • Ongoing reform activity that has been informed by the Royal Commission including stronger regulation, reporting and improved data.

Lack of suicide prevention services fails those in crisis

Suicide Prevention Australia

Suicide Prevention Australia said the Federal Budget has overlooked people in crisis across the nation and not invested adequately in frontline suicide prevention services.

It had failed to “provide any investment of substance or scale for addressing suicide crisis – contradicting Labor’s claims that this is a ‘wellbeing budget’,” the peak body said.

“While we welcome the investment in mental health, it will not address the needs of a significant proportion of those most at risk of suicide,” CEO Nieves Murray said.

“Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said reducing suicide rates would be a personal priority of his government at a Suicide Prevention Australia event in September 2022.

“We will analyse the budget in more depth, but it’s clear that it is a missed opportunity to prioritise suicide prevention,” Murray said.

“Suicide Prevention Australia cautiously welcomes the Budget’s investments in cost-of-living relief, workforce, supports for those bereaved, and priority groups such as men, First Nations peoples and veterans. These initiatives target the factors that drive people towards crisis.

“However, the current increase in suicide rates shows more and more people are already at crisis point. Unfortunately, those in crisis will be left behind by this Budget.

“We need increased investment in frontline crisis support services. We also need to implement measures to drive down suicide over the longer term. Australia must therefore prioritise a universal safety net in the form of a National Suicide Prevention Act.

“This will ensure all government decisions consider their impact on suicide risks – and plan adequately for it. This cost-effective measure can begin to be implemented now, and there is no excuse for it not to be included in tonight’s Budget.

Key budget highlights:

    • $556.2 million over 5 years from 2022–23 (and $36 million ongoing) for mental health and suicide prevention, including:
    • Postvention: $14.4 million over two years from 2023–24 to support the continuation of postvention services nationally for people experiencing grief and distress as a result of suicide loss.
    • Workforce: $91.3 million over five years from 2022–23 for additional psychology placements, and a redesign of psychology higher education pathways.
    • $10.5 million in 2023–24 to the Department of Health and Aged Care to increase mental health supports for First Nations people during the period of the Voice referendum.
    • $10.9 million over two years from 2023–24 to continue support for Men’s Sheds and existing national men’s health research and data collection initiatives, in line with the National Men’s Health Strategy 2020–2030.
    • $64.1m to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for additional resourcing to help eliminate the claims backlog and continue providing increased support to veterans who are having claims processed.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

beyondblue: 1300 224 636

13Yarn: 13 92 76

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800

QLife: 1800 184 527

Check-In (VMIAC, Victoria): 1800 845 109

Lived Experience Telephone Line Service: 1800 013 755


Budget lacking innovation to genuinely reshape health landscape

Australasian College of Paramedics

Despite the Federal Government’s recent stated support for paramedics to work to “top of scope” as part of new models of multidisciplinary, team-based healthcare, the profession, which is uniquely placed to deliver primary care in a range of diverse settings, was not mentioned in the 2023 budget’s health funding allotments.

Detail was also lacking in the articulation of just what those models of care will look like, how they will operate, and the envisioned workforce composition.

“In the lead-up to the budget, the government outlined a clear vision for a reshaped health landscape and the provision of improved primary health and patient-centred care, one that was more responsive, accessible, and holistic, that would alleviate the pressure on GPs and hospitals, and that specifically mentioned paramedics,” said Australasian College of Paramedicine Chair Ryan Lovett.

“Very little of that vision is elaborated upon and reflected in the budget that has been released. It lacks innovation.”

Additionally, what was touted in the government’s recent “Summary of Strengthening Medicare Policies” as a National Scope of Practice Review aimed at examining the barriers and incentives for all health professionals to work to their full scope of practice across the primary care sector, in the budget it was referred to as a scope of practice review to examine current models of primary care.

The College recognises that there is a commitment to implementing health workforce incentive programs and multidisciplinary models of care in the budget; however, without a clearer path forward for the integration of paramedics and other health practitioners, communities will continue to struggle to access the level of care they need.

Paramedics have long been overlooked as a key workforce capable of addressing these challenges and have consistently lacked the support needed to realise their full potential, despite many already working to “top of scope” in innovative new models of healthcare.

“Paramedicine has been an Ahpra-registered profession since 2018, and we now have paramedics working in different roles across the health system providing a much-needed, albeit still underutilised, health workforce,” Lovett said.

“It’s undeniably positive that the government has recognised the need to introduce new multidisciplinary models to address the challenges facing the health sector, and it is what we have long advocated for; however, a lot more is needed to genuinely enable paramedics to work to ‘top of scope’ as part of these models.

“Moving forward, we look forward to working with the government and Public Health Networks to support the development of sustainable health legislation and policies to ensure that paramedics work to their full scope of practice, delivering improved primary healthcare for all Australians.”


More needed to significantly address rural health

National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance)

The Alliance said the Federal Budget 2023–24 was a missed opportunity to significantly address healthcare needs in rural Australia. This is despite the major contribution by rural communities to Australia’s economic surplus this year and their poor health status, which is below that of their urban counterparts.

“While there are some modest measures included to improve healthcare access, this is not a Budget that will provide rural health improvements – which is disappointing,” said Alliance Chief Executive Susanne Tegen.

“The Alliance notes that the Budget gives overarching measures for healthcare service delivery, however many are not rural specific.

“The Alliance looks forward to being involved in and informing the new regional development forum for Australian Government agencies. We hope it will increase rural health stakeholders’ regular engagement with the Government, to better inform decisions about rural healthcare within the Developing the Regional Investment Framework outlined in the Budget,” Tegen said.

The Alliance is well placed to support the Government’s work within the Framework’s four key priority areas – investing in services, people, places and industry – to support regional development. It should be recognised, however, that without healthy individuals, the economy cannot keep delivering such healthy returns for the whole of Australia.

“We welcome the Government’s bulk billing incentive, which is an Australia-wide initiative with some additional support for those GPs in remote regions who bulk bill. This incentive should assist clinicians with some of the additional costs that the tyranny of distance and challenge of servicing remote Australia bring.

“However, the initiative still does not address the severe workforce shortage and subsequent long waiting lists for access to health services faced by rural Australians.

“There is also a modest extension to the single-employer trial for GP registrars, allowing them to deliver services in several community-based medical practices without losing benefits as they move between employers,” Tegen said.

The new MyMedicare voluntary enrolment scheme aims to ensure access to longer telehealth services, informed by learnings from other countries. The Alliance will await the details to ensure rural Australians can still access the care they require and not endure further barriers to equitable health care.

Telehealth is an important element of the services provided to increase patient access to GPs. The Alliance seeks to ensure that rural patients have access to affordable and flexible care delivered by their rural GPs. However, an adequate medical workforce is required for this to take place.

“We support and applaud the Indigenous preventive health initiatives, including free annual health checks, national expansion of the Deadly Choices program, extending the Tackling Indigenous Smoking initiative to include vaping, culturally appropriate knowledge and skills support to prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancies, as well as early treatment through the new national lung cancer screening program.

“These are important measures as rates of daily smoking in First Nations Australians increase significantly with remoteness, from 30.1 percent in major cities to 52.3 percent in very remote areas.

“There are also some welcome but modest measures for multidisciplinary work opportunities, which incentivises nurse practitioners, midwives and allied health workers.

“However, there is still work to do beyond tinkering around the edges. Further reform is needed to support the 30 percent of the population who live outside urban centres.

“The Alliance is disappointed that significant reform of rural healthcare has still not been tackled, with these modest Budget measures failing to address major medical and health workforce inequities. These measures also do not allow for the innovative community-led models of multidisciplinary primary health care that are desperately needed in rural areas.

“These same communities provide over 90 percent of the food on our tables and the majority of Australia’s national income. They deserve better,” Tegen said.

Please see more details in the Alliance’s 2023–24 Pre-Budget Submission.


Surplus of missed opportunities

Independent MP for Mackellar Dr Sophie Scamps

Dr Sophie Scamps said last night’s budget was a missed opportunity to tackle the serious reform Australia needs labelling the budget one with a “surplus of missed opportunities”.

Sophie welcomed the $2 billion investment in Australia’s hydrogen energy industry but notes the government’s investment in renewable energy is not enough to compete with the US Inflation Reduction Act.

Sophie, a former GP, has also welcomed the increase in the incentive for GPs to bulkbill some patients – but has questioned why the Medicare Rebate was not increased to benefit all patients.

There were also missed opportunities with tax reform – in particular, the timid redesign of the PRRT and need to end Australia’s over-reliance on personal income tax revenue.

Sophie has also criticised the lack of funding for the environment, preventative health and mental health in the budget.

Read Scamps’ full statement here.


Welcome improvements to consumer experience of primary care

Allied Health Professions Australia

Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) welcomes the initiative to invest $6.1 million to support allied health professionals to develop connections to My Health Record. The measure is designed to ensure all members of a consumer’s primary care team have access to their key health information to support clinical decision making at the point of care.

AHPA CEO Bronwyn Morris-Donovan said “this investment is the first significant step toward integrating allied health in the MHR and improving the consumer experience of primary care.”

AHPA also welcomes funding for PHNs to commission multidisciplinary care from allied health professionals, nurses and midwives ($79.4 million over 4 years).

“We are looking forward to working closely with the PHNs to improve access to multidisciplinary allied health services”, Morris-Donovan said.

Three million dollars to undertake a scope of practice review that examines current models of care and recommends appropriate expansion to scopes of practices and models of care is a positive step forward. AHPA is pleased to see both registered and self-regulated practitioners will be included.

“This measure is an important step toward establishing models of care that support allied health professionals working to their full scope,” Morris Donovan said.

The organisation is pleased that the budget included $47.2 million over five years to trial integrating services and explore the use of joint commissioning across primary health, disability, aged care, and veterans’ care sectors in up to ten locations.

This will aim to improve access to services, including allied health, in rural and remote locations and First Nations communities.

A full response to the budget and further commentary is below.


Budget only scratches the surface of environment needs

The Wilderness Society

The Wilderness Society said The Budget is a small step in the right direction for nature, but there is still a long way to go if we have any hope of turning the tide.

Despite investments in a new Environmental Protection Authority ($121 million over four years) and National Parks ($355.1 million over four years), the budget still falls short of the significant resources required to protect nature, rein in climate change, and stop biodiversity loss, it said. Glaring under-funded exceptions include a lack of new funds for addressing the current backlog of endangered species recovery plans and World Heritage nominations.

The Wilderness Society said many of the Labor government’s promises remain in limbo without adequate funding committed to turn them into tangible action: we are yet to see any significant investment at the level that would indicate the 2026 State of the Environment report will be much better than the prevous report, it said.

“While we welcome the seed funding for a new environmental regulator and data office, overall we remain concerned that the Albanese government is still allocating clearly insufficient resourcing to nature protection. Climate change and biodiversity loss are twin crises for Australia, requiring urgent action—in laws, in practice, and in budget lines.

“It is disappointing to see, at this crucial moment, that key conservation functions, such as those needed to protect World Heritage and foster species recovery, are once again underfunded and deprioritised. We’ve heard this Government bemoan a “lost decade” under the former coalition governments, yet looking at this year’s budget, we fear nature risks losing so much more. The overall level of funding is still broadly consistent with that of previous governments.”

“On paper, the Labor government has committed to a number of encouraging policies for the Australian environment, but actually realising a credible broader agenda—including their commitment to no new extinctions—will take significantly more financial resources, which the Treasurer has simply not allocated.

“This government may have delivered a surplus budget, but it has left nature’s recovery dependent on unreliable market-based approaches.”


Fails to deliver for Murray-Darling recovery

Environment Victoria, Nature Conservation Council NSW, Queensland Conservation Council and the Conservation Council of SA

The Albanese Government has committed $146.8 million in this budget towards their election promise to complete the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, but failed to commit the funds needed to deliver on the final 450 gigalitres (GL) of water for the environment.

Australia’s peak conservation groups covering every basin state have warned more funding will be needed to reach Basin Plan targets and restore our rivers to health after a decade of delay.


Primary healthcare workforce planning unaddressed

Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA)

AMSA welcomed and commended key investments into primary healthcare, with the focus on disadvantaged and vulnerable populations, but said effective primary healthcare workforce planning remains unaddressed, jeopardising the nation’s future health outcomes.

AMSA strongly welcomed the $4.5 million in funding into the single employer model trials to 10 additional sites for GP registrars in regional, rural and remote care, which will see increased retention and support for rural doctors and address longitudinal healthcare accessibility for rural patients.

“AMSA continues to strongly advocate for immediate investment into increasing medical student interest in general practice and rural health as the single-most important solution to addressing the increasing shortage of doctors in general practice and rural health,” it said.

It said the $4.2 million funding to support James Cook University to deliver training via the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program is a key initial step in increasing medical student interest to practice rurally, with expanded opportunities to undertake long term and possibly longitudinal rural clinical placements.

AMSA said it is additionally relieved to see investment into improving mental health workforce and accessibility through the $91 million allocated to 500 post-graduate psychology places and 500 one-year internships for provisional psychologists.

“However, with the significant psychiatry deficits across Australia, and rural and remote areas only having three licensed psychiatric professionals per 100,000 people, the Government must fund quality education and better exposure to non-acute community psychiatry at a medical school level as an immediate measure to reverse this trend,” it said.

AMSA welcomed the commitment to raise the rate of Youth Allowance by $40 per fortnight but continues to advocate for targeted support for healthcare students who undertake numerous hours of unpaid placement and are often subject to multiple relocations within the length of their degree, impacting both likelihood and accessibility of employment.

It said the Budget’s $90,000 annual funding for LGBTQIASB+ health via the 10-Year National Action Plan For LGBTIQA+ Health and Wellbeing barely scratches the surface for meeting the continually underserved needs for Australia’s LGBTQIASB+ community.

“Whilst we appreciate the spotlight on LGBTQIASB+ health, it leaves issues such as access to life-saving gender-affirming care for transgender, gender-diverse and non-binary people significantly unaddressed and unanswered,” it said.

Additionally, AMSA would like to see further investment into the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students by establishing support services to complete their degrees, including scholarships and expansion of ABSTUDY eligibility.


Modest advancement on disability rights

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR)

The ALHR welcomed budget measures that promise modest advancement of the rights of people with disabilities in Australia, outside of the NDIS, which recognises that only about 500,000 people of the 4.3 million Australians with disability access the NDIS.

ALHR Chair of Disability Rights Natalie Wade highlighted:

  • $260.2 million over two years to extend Commonwealth psychosocial supports for people with severe mental illness who are not in the NDIS
  • $4.2 million over 3 years from 2024–25 to support access to art and music therapy programs
  • $487.0 million over 4 years from 2023–24  (and $133.6 million ongoing) to extend the Disability Support for Older Australians Program
  • $5 million in 2023–24 to develop and implement an Arts and Disability Associated Plan under Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031
  • $10.2 million over four years from 2023–24 to establish a Central Coordination of Disability Policy function in the Department of Social Services to drive whole-of-government action on disability policy and improve accountability against Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031
  • additional funding of $31.4 million over four years from 2023–24 to meet the remaining costs of establishing the National Disability Data Asset (NDDA) and its underlying infrastructure.”

“Australia’s obligations under the UN CRPD are clear that those within the disability community from priority areas deserve specific responses to ensure their human rights are realised. In this respect, we welcome funding targeting youth in education, older Australians and those vulnerable to COVID-19,” she said. Similarly, budget measures that support First Nations people with disability to improve access to supports in their communities was welcomed.

However, ALHR said $1 million to extend individual advocacy support for First Nations people with disability through the National Disability Advocacy Program is not sufficient.

Read the full media release here.


“Labor Saves Medicare”

Doctors Reform Society

Doctors Reform Society president Dr Tim Woodruff said last night’s budget finally delivered funding to maintain and improve affordable access to Australia’s most vulnerable patients, those on pensions and Health Care Cards.

“We strongly support the tripling of the bulk billing incentive for the most disadvantaged as a first step to saving Medicare after years of neglect. This means that from today, GPs who really want to make sure that co-payments don’t stop their patients coming to see them but have contemplated charging co-payments can now do what they feel is the best thing for their patients and maintain or return to bulk billing.”

“So many of my patients will be relieved at the change as for months they have been chasing a bulk billing clinic they can afford, where they can get consistent care from a doctor they have known for years.”

“Decreases in the prescription costs will also delight our patients as they can be less inclined to spread their prescription medicines out to every second day, or not even fill the script because the fridge needs fixing,” said Woodruff.

“The long term changes will take years to have benefits but there is pleasingly a lot of good ideas which the Government is working through with a clear reformist agenda.”


Good steps but no funding for allied health workforce strategy

Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA)

AHPA said it was pleased to see  Budget measures that begin to tackle the structural reforms necessary to re-build a sustainable, consumer-focused primary health care system and commended the  Government for its recognition that multidisciplinary care teams are vital to the holistic care and support of the consumer.

AHPA welcomed the $6.1 million investment to support allied health professionals to develop connections to My Health Record (MHR), saying allied health access to the MHR is fundamental to supporting multidisciplinary teams.

CEO Bronwyn Morris-Donovan said: “While we recognise the limitations of the MHR, this measure has potential to improve communications between the consumer and their health care team and prevents consumers having to repeat their clinical story over and over again.”

The organisation said it was pleased to see $79.4 million over four years to strengthen the role of Primary Health Networks (PHNs) in commissioning multidisciplinary health care to improve the management of chronic conditions and reduce avoidable hospitalisations.

However, whilst optimistic about the strengthened role PHNs may play in building sustainable regional models of care; AHPA cautions against a ‘one-size-fits all model’.

AHPA said it was also pleased to see investment of $445 million over five years to increase funding for the Workforce Incentive Program (WIP), but there must be accountability for how the funding is used, coupled with a robust evaluation.

“Without accountability measures, we run the risk of more of the same, which goes no way toward improving access to multidisciplinary care for consumers.” said Morris-Donovan.

“The investment of $3 million to undertake a Scope of Practice Review is welcomed, and we are pleased to see both registered and self-regulated practitioners included. This measure could unlock allied health capability to the benefit of all consumers.”

“If the review demonstrates models of care where allied health professionals add capacity to an already stretched system and we can secure an accompanying funding mechanism, then this task holds real potential to improve the performance of the healthcare system.”

AHPA also welcomed the $47.2 million over five years to trial integrating services and explore the use of joint commissioning across primary health, disability, aged care, and veterans’ care sectors. With appropriate implementation, this could significantly improve access to services, including allied health, in rural and remote locations and First Nations communities in up to ten locations, it said.

However it was “very disappointed” that no funding has been allocated to develop an allied health workforce strategy, saying there is still no nationally consistent collection and integration of allied health workforce data which results in fragmented, inconsistent approaches to workforce and service planning.

“he resulting impact is poor access to essential allied health services, especially for people in rural and remote areas, and those with chronic conditions. Implementation of these reforms without adequate workforce planning is counterproductive and burdensome for professionals and consumers.”


A Budget that addresses social determinants of health and gender equality

Australian College of Nursing

The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) would like to congratulate the Albanese Government on handing down a Budget that addresses social determinants of health and equality for all Australians.

Prefacing his Budget speech with the statement “the next two years are expected to be the weakest for global growth in over two decades”, Treasurer Jim Chalmers set out a range of measures to ensure that Australian’s experiencing hardship do not fall behind.

ACN Chief Executive Officer Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN said that investments in a range of areas gives the nursing profession confidence that generations born now would not experience decreased health outcomes due to a reduction in the carbon footprint and innovative measures to promote renewable energies to build healthier sustainable communities.

Social Determinants of Health
“It is good to see that the Budget is making positive changes not just for improved scope for nurses but also the people we care for,” Ward said.

“Hearing the Albanese Government lift nurses and confirm that the health system would be improved by increasing our scope is a proud moment for me as the leader of the nursing peak body. I hope nurses around the country hear support they have from this Government – particularly as we celebrate International Nurses Day this Friday.

“This Budget speaks of a Government building a better future for Australians by laying the foundations for a healthier nation.

“As a nurse, I cannot tell you the heartbreak of having someone present to you when they are experiencing a period of distress.

“Decreasing the cost of accessing primary care and medications, particularly for people dealing with chronic illness is something to be celebrated. Increasing bulk billed visits will take the pressure off many Australians having to choose between their groceries or their health. Changes to Medicare that allow nurses to work at top-of-scope will increase primary care access for many, particularly in rural and remote areas.

“Parenting payments, affordable housing, and improved cost of early childhood education arrangements provide security for parents and children which will have health benefits long into the future.

“This Budget will serve future generations by protecting access to universal health care, affordable housing and early childhood education, all of which are instrumental in building strong social determinants of health.”

Gender Equality
“Nursing is a profession which we find attracts more women than men and, we have seen in the past been impacted greatly in our remuneration and even scope of practice due to our gender.

“Making gender equity an objective of the Fair Work Act shows that this Government has listened to women and acted to prevent generations of women to come finding themselves in gender based financial hardship.

“Encouraging women into apprenticeships through the Australian Skills Guarantee is another initiative where we see women encouraged to think outside of gendered roles – old stereotypes which are proven to be irrelevant.

“The increase in fee-free TAFE places will help lift education levels – knowledge is power and we want to see Enrolled Nursing courses included in these.”

Aged Care
“It was a relief to hear that there was consideration for how we are viewing the needs of our older Australians. We need to listen to our older Australian’s wishes for their care in their final years and treat them with the dignity they deserve. Yes, some will have complicated health needs which will require residential aged care but for those that can stay at home, they should be empowered to stay at home with the support of a home care plan. ACN welcomes the 9,500 new homecare packages and we have the curriculum to educate the nurses required to ensure optimal care and support the government.

“Aged Care workers will see an improvement in remuneration which as we know, was a driver for so many nurses leaving the field. As the Treasurer said “you deserve every cent”. A valued, respected workforce that is invested in ensures the quality of care all Australians deserve.

“This is a budget designed to keep Australians healthy now and into the future. Nurses are the largest group of health professionals this country has, providing care in every postcode in Australia. We want to serve and work to the top of our scope- let’s hope this government delivers on its promises.”


Lived experience must be at the heart of mental health reform

National Mental Health Consumer Alliance

The National Mental Health Consumer Alliance said the Budget confirmed funding of $7.8 million over three years for the establishment of two national peaks (one for Consumers and one for Carers).

“While we welcome this commitment, we are concerned the funding and timing of these peaks may be insufficient to provide appropriate input of lived experience expertise in the proposed investments, with each peak being allocated an estimated $1.25 million per year,” it said.

“We believe future funding arrangements for the consumer National Peak may need review into the future to ensure consumer voice and leadership is carried into the implementation of longer-term mental health investments.”

The Alliance welcomed the $91.3 million package over 5 years for training for psychologists to help address long waiting lists, but questioned how this would account for geographical spread and people who live in regional, rural and remote areas who have even less access to supports.

It welcomed the $17.8 million commitment to upskill the health workforce with mental health training, but said the development of the new training packages must be led by the lived experience voice in their design, delivery and evaluation.

It looked forward to more details on the $260.2 million committted over two years to extend Commonwealth psychosocial supports for people who are not in the NDIS.

The Alliance said it was pleased that $10.5 million has been committed to support the mental health of First Nations people around the referendum to enshrine an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Constitution. This suggests that lessons were learned from the same sex marriage plebiscite in 2017 and acknowledges that there has already been hurtful commentary, hate speech and racist attacks, it said.

The Alliance noted an unspecified funding commitment to future mental health priorities in response to the Better Access evaluation and strongly recommended that any reforms must embed lived experience and do this by undertaking structural engagement and partnership with its community.

Finally, the Alliance welcomed increased income support, but warned the ongoing issue of cost of living has broader effects on people’s mental health and lives and agreed with welfare advocates that the JobSeeker increase  should better align with the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee’s recommendation of a rise of $128 a week. “To bring about sustainable enhancements in mental wellbeing, it is imperative that governments tackle the fundamental structural, environmental, and social determinants of mental health,” it said.


Include specialist care in wrap-around care from the start

Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP)

The RACP welcomed the Budget’s significant investment in primary health care and urged the Government to work with specialists to ensure patients with complex and comorbid conditions get the specialist care they need as part of the roll out of the announced reforms to multidisciplinary care in general practice.

RACP President and Paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small said Treasurer Jim Chalmers should be commended for overseeing such a significant reform to the Medicare system, saying the RACP supported the focus of the bulk billing announcement on groups most at need and strongly supported the broader focus on multidisciplinary wrap-around care.

“However, we know more and more Australians are suffering from complex and comorbid conditions that the primary health care system cannot adequately address without integrating specialist care from the outset,” she said.

“Nearly half of Australians suffer from at least one chronic condition. We urge the Federal Government to involve specialists in multidisciplinary care at an early point to limit disease progression and help patients navigate comorbidities and complex conditions.”

“Specialist involvement should be integrated across the range of proposed reforms as part of MyMedicare, expanded telehealth and after hours care and digital transformation, as well as seamless participation in multidisciplinary care teams.”

The RACP has also welcomed :

  • $90.9 million allocated towards the establishment of an Australian Centre for Disease Control, to help detect, prevent, and respond to current and emerging health threats.
  • $818.5 million invested in First Nations health, including funding to build community partnerships and aged care services.
  • $737 million towards early intervention and education programs to reduce smoking and vaping rates and to increase the uptake of regular health checks.
  •  $377.3 million allocated for Australians grappling with opioid dependency to access the treatment they need at their local pharmacy.

The RACP also called on the Government to ensure funding in the next budget to substantially deliver the National Climate, Health and Wellbeing Strategy, which is currently being developed.


Pharmacists must be consulted on reforms

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA)

Responding to the Federal Budget, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) urged consultation with the pharmacy profession on the proposed changes that would, it said, have a significant impact on community pharmacies and pharmacists.

PSA National President, Dr Fei Sim said: “As expected, the Federal Budget confirmed that it would proceed with a proposal to extend the time-frame to dispense over 300 medicines in pharmacies from 30 days’ supply to 60 days’ supply.

“Professionals who work in pharmacies have been surprised and disappointed by the decision made without adequate consultation, but PSA is seeking to work with government to learn more about how the cost savings from this measure will be redirected back to the pharmacy sector.

“In the interests of promoting public health outcomes, Australia’s pharmacy profession must continue to thrive, but community pharmacies can’t be expected to do more with less.

Sim said the impact of the changes is much broader than on pharmacists and pharmacy staff.

“Medicine use in Australia is increasing,” she said. “Pharmacists are medicine experts and pharmacist intervention is critical to minimising medicine misadventure and harm.

“Despite the commitment to expand vaccination and other services, reinvestment should be sufficient to maintain the viability of the community pharmacy network, not a redistribution or replacement of patient co-payment, and patients can continue to benefit from pharmacy-delivered services.

“The pharmacy profession remains open and willing to work with the government to help ensure there are no unintended consequences to this policy measure, and no patient and no pharmacist will be worse off.”


Links to other responses:

Australian National Preventive Mechanism: No additional funding to implement Australia’s OPCAT obligations

Australian Parents for Climate Action: Parents relieved by investment in energy, but remain alarmed by support for big polluters


***Following reactions added in from 12 May***

Steps in the right direction, but lacks sustained investment

Institute of Community Directors Australia

“This is a 3½ “lamingtons” out of five budget for our sector, using a measure we’ve invented to recognise all the community organisations relying on fêtes and fundraisers to survive,” David Crosbie CEO of Community Council for Australia said in a statement.

Their assessment is that this budget passes – and takes some important steps in the right direction – but it is not a bold or assertive budget, and lacks significant and sustained investment in programs and services that could make a real difference to charities, not-for-profits, and the communities they serve.

It is a well-constructed budget, delivering a surplus that will help pay down our pandemic debt, but also offering targeted cost of living relief and many initiatives supportive of the broader communities sector.

But the weakness in this budget is that the level of support is limited and spread relatively thinly. We see this in the Jobseeker increases – less than $3 a day – and in the rent assistance increase of 15 percent, but we also see it in programs that are important for charities and not-for-profits.

Take for instance this announcement:

The Government will deliver a $199.8 million integrated package to address entrenched and concentrated community disadvantage.”

It promises to allocate the funds from 2023–24 with “place-based approaches”, engaging with philanthropy and promoting social impact investment.

It sounds like a lot of money, but when we break that down year by year, we are talking about small amounts being spread over a six-year period.

These details from the Department of Social Services budget statements spell out the actual breakdown.

Funding includes:

  • $100 million over five years from 2024–25 to establish a social impact investment Outcomes Fund to make contractual payments to states, territories and service providers based on delivering agreed, measurable outcomes through specific projects
  • $64 million over six years from 2023–24 to extend the Stronger Places, Stronger People program to deliver place-based initiatives in partnership with 10 local communities and state and territory governments