Last night, Treasurer Joe Hockey delivered his second Federal Budget as the chief money man in Tony Abbott‘s Coalition Government.
In contrast to last year’s extraordinarily disastrous slash-and-burn budget, this year’s fiscal plan is far milder, far more straight-down-the-line, and far more Senate-friendly. Far from being made by the iron-willed Government of twelve months ago, it’s a budget made by an administration who’s taken a year-long battering – from both political rivals and opposition polls.
But despite its relative placidity – which, believe it or not, includes provision for a return to a number of Labor policies that were vehemently poo-poo’d by the Coalition whilst in Opposition – there are still a whole bunch of implications for young people, both good and bad, contained within.
We’ve waded through the murk and found the key areas that concern Australia’s young people.
The Coalition now recognises precisely how bone-headed last year’s proposed policies were. The 2014 Budget contained legislation that would have forced unemployed young people to wait six months before they could access the Dole. In the 2015 Budget, that measure still exists, but in a drastically pared back form. Now unemployed people under 25 will still have to wait before they can access Newstart, but they’ll only have to wait one month instead of six. From July next year, the eligibility age for Newstart rises from 22 to 25.
The Budget also includes a $330million package specifically aimed at reducing the high rate of Youth Unemployment in the country. This is specifically aimed at areas of high youth unemployment, and includes aid for youth mental health work and young migrants.
Combine all of this with the Government’s much vaunted small business package – which includes a huge boost in tax breaks and funding to encourage small businesses and, in particular, start ups – and the Budget displays a long overdue willingness to tackle youth employment as a priority issue.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne had a rough twelve months trying to push through his hotly contested University Fee Deregulation legislation – arguably one of the most ardently opposed policies in last year’s budget. The legislation got shot down in flames on the floor of the Senate on multiple occasions.
In a now-infamous interview on Sky News, Pyne asserted himself to be a “fixer” and that he’d “fixed” the problems of the legislation. Though at the time he wouldn’t state exactly how he’d managed to do that, asserting that he would leave it ’til the Budget reveal as he “wanted it to be a surprise.”
The 2015 Budget reveals exactly how he plans to move it forward. He simply plans to try to push the legislation, largely unchanged, through the Senate yet another time.
University Fee Deregulation remains in the form proposed by last year, and it appears in a particularly buried section of the 2015 Budget document. From January 1, 2016 – it proposes – all University fees will be uncapped and subject to price points dictated by Universities and market demand. Or, in other words, the $100,000 degree is still very much on the cards should the Government get their way.
How Pyne and the Coalition Government plans to pass the legislation through the Senate that has shown its distaste for the bills more than once remains anyone’s guess. Some experts are suggesting that this is a sign that the Coalition is positioning itself for an early election, as another failure for this bill would provide a trigger for a double dissolution.
Young people who care about – or who are active in fighting for – the support and aid of refugees and less fortunate and impoverished countries have been dealt a bitter blow by this Budget, with overall foreign aid cut by a staggering $1billion.
In what can only be read as a move borne of diplomatic spite, aid to Indonesia has been slashed by 40%. Meanwhile, and with seemingly less political motivation, aid to Africa has been slashed by 70%. Cambodia, Nauru, and Papua New Guinea – all nations with active Australian asylum seeker detention centres or resettlement arrangements – have been largely spared cuts.
In addition, the Refugee Council of Australia has lost its $140,000 of Government funding.
The Netflix Tax is upon us. Budget 2015 officially introduces the extension of the GST to include overseas providers of digital products and services – such as streaming audio and video. The tax is expected to raise $350million in the 24 months following its introduction, which is scheduled to take effect from July 1, 2017.
And of the Government’s $450million expenditure on Counter-Terrorism, $131million has been allocated towards the cost of storing all of your metadata – everything you visit on the net, everyone you call or text, and the precise location and time you do it from and for – for a mandatory period of two years.
The holiday’s over for both Aussies travelling abroad, and for all you legends from overseas living out here.
From July 1, 2017 – those of you living and working overseas who have HECS/HELP debts will be required to make repayments on your loans – even from income earned from foreign sources. From January 1st next year those of you with Uni debts who are planning on leaving the country for more than six months will have to register with the ATO. If you’re already overseas and are carrying a HECS debt, you’ll have to register with the ATO by July 1, 2017. You’ll have the same income-based repayment requirements as people who are still living in Australia.
As for people travelling here on a Working Holiday Visa, boy is this ever a sting. The $18,000 tax-free threshold will no longer available. Instead, all Working Holiday Visa holders will pay 32.5% tax on every dollar they earn up to $80,000.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The sky isn’t going to cave in like it was after last year’s budget. This year represents a far milder, more public-friendly Budget aimed at repairing some of the damage done by a inarguably disastrous twelve months for the embattled Coalition Government.
Whether that scores enough good will from the voting public to boost their polling numbers, as always, remains to be seen.
Photo: Stefan Postles, Robert Prezioso, AFP via Getty Images.