Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has defended the decision to make migrants wait four years before they can access government payments. Source: AAP

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Josh Frydenberg defends migrant benefit cuts amid accusations of ‘stripping support'

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has defended the decision to make migrants wait four years before they can access government payments.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has defended the decision to make migrants wait four years before they can access government payments. Source: AAP

Published , updated 12 May 2021, 3:32 pm
By SBS News
12 May 2021, 3:29 pm

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12 May 2021, 3:08 pm

Scott Morrison says fully vaccinating the nation by end of 2021 is 'not a policy commitment'

As expected, the Budget washup is seeping into Question Time, which is currently ongoing.

Labor MP Mark Butler asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison whether he could guarantee that all Australians will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of this year.

“I refer to page 37 of Budget Paper 1 which states a vaccination countryside program is likely to be in place by 2021,” Mr Butler said. “Will the Prime Minister now guarantee that all Australians will be fully vaccinated against COVID by the end of this year?”

“That is not a policy statement nor is it a policy commitment of the government,” the Prime Minister replied.

“It is a Treasury assumption that has been put in place and it makes no reference, I note, to second doses, it only refers to doses.

“The vaccination program that the government is rolling out in partnerships with the states and territory - we expect to achieve some 3 million doses by the end of this week.”

“The vaccination program will continue to roll out,” he added. “The Treasury have made their assumptions around the budget and I can refer members to those assumptions. I would refer members to the government’s policy statements in relation to the timing of the program.”

12 May 2021, 2:40 pm

Treasurer praises Victoria's 'comprehensive' quarantine facility proposal after criticism

Victoria's proposal for a purpose-built COVID-19 quarantine facility is gaining traction, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg lauding it as "the most comprehensive".

Mr Frydenberg confirmed on Wednesday the Morrison government was still considering the Victorian plan.

The state last month proposed the 500-bed facility at Mickleham north of Melbourne, and wants the Commonwealth to fund and build it.

The $200 million proposal remains a political football, with Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley criticising the federal government for not committing funds to it in Tuesday's budget.

Victoria would provide $15 million for design of the centre and also operate it.

"The most comprehensive proposal has come from Victoria, and we are working that through our internal processes," Mr Frydenberg said.

The Morrison government was criticised over the Budget announcement for providing no new funds for open-air quarantine facilities, aside from an already-announced expansion at Howard Springs.

Source: AAP

Mr Foley was unimpressed that the federal budget did not earmark funds for the proposed facility.

"We're very disappointed that the Commonwealth hasn't stumped up, it would appear, to help get us through the global pandemic, keeping our borders safe," he told ABC Radio.

"Victoria and all the states have stepped in to make sure hotel quarantine is delivered."

 

With AAP.

12 May 2021, 1:55 pm

Treasurer says 'safety' takes priority before borders can reopen

Josh Frydenberg also defended Australia's border closures, saying safety must take priority based on advice from medical experts. 

On Tuesday night, the Treasurer revealed that the assumption was that borders wouldn't reopen until the middle of next year.

"The key factor, the central factor, the only factor for us - is what keeps Australians safe," he said from the Press Club. "It's not simply the rollout of the vaccine, that is a factor for the Chief Medical Officer in making decisions around borders.

"They also need to take into account what is happening with the virus globally, its transmissibility, new variants of the virus, and what it would mean for Australians health and safety.

"So I can only comment on the circumstances which we are in today, where there are more than 800,000 new cases, we have to be very careful and cautious, when it comes to opening up our country, we cannot, we cannot avoid the dangers that that may pose right now, and what we must seek to do is protect Australians, their health but also their economic recovery and that is why we will always follow the medical advice on these important matters."

12 May 2021, 1:51 pm

Frydenberg defends Budget cut that forces migrants to wait four years for benefits

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has defended the decision to make migrants wait four years before they can access government payments. 

The government will save $671 million over five years by applying the four-year Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period to anyone granted permanent residency in Australia from 1 January next year - a measure outlined in the Tuesday night budget.

"There are a number of measures in this budget that are actually providing additional services to migrants," the Treasurer said from the press club on Wednesday afternoon. "Some of whom have obviously gone home. Some of the temporary migrants went home during the course of the pandemic. And others have stayed.

"We do continue to provide those economic supports. But when you reference net overseas migration, it does go down but then it actually rebuilds.

"It rebuilds to just over 90,000 in ‘22-23, which is when we said in the budget we have an assumption that the border will gradually reopen.

"And then it gets as high back to where it was pre-pandemic at around 235,000 a year. In the budget, there are a number of measures designed to provide additional support to refugees and migrants, as well as, of course, supporting net overseas migration, when it is safe to do so."

Mr Frydenberg refuted the argument that the budget is stripping support from migrants.

"We're not stripping support. What we're seeking to do is to provide the support to those migrants in the same way that we have always have, but at the same time when it comes to net overseas migration, ensure that it rebuilds when it is safe to do so."

12 May 2021, 1:14 pm

Frydenberg delivers post-budget speech

As we speak, Josh Frydenberg is at the press club delivering the traditional post-budget speech.

So far he's just been reiterating last night's speech, but stay tuned for some thrilling questions to follow. 

12 May 2021, 12:59 pm

Greens slam Budget as 'cruel' to migrants and refugees

The Greens have slammed the budget over measures being applied to migrants and refugees. 

Greens Immigration Spokesperson Nick McKim said the budget is "a cruel document that unfairly targets and demonises refugees and migrants".

"This is a budget that rips social services support away from migrants in need and spends half a billion dollars on locking them up," Senator McKim said.

"Instead of spending $464 million to warehouse people indefinitely on Christmas Island, people could be allowed to live in the community."

"This budget locks in a humanitarian cap that is shamefully low and turns its back on stateless people around the world."

"Worst of all, decision to make migrants wait four years for social services is cruel and vindictive."

"It punishes people for global conditions, and for not finding jobs that are not available."

"Yet again, the Liberals have shown their contempt for migrants and refugees."

Here's a good breakdown on how new migrants will be impacted by budget cuts.

12 May 2021, 12:20 pm

Qantas extends international flight pause

Qantas has delayed its planned resumption of international flights until late December after the federal budget revised forecasts for overseas travel.

The airline was due to restart services at the end of October but on Wednesday pushed back the date.

Treasury expects international travel to remain low through to mid-2022 before a gradual recovery in international tourism.

Source: AAP

Qantas believes the new assumption would ready the company to take advantage of tourism and trade in a post-coronavirus world.

"We remain optimistic that additional bubbles will open once Australia's vaccine rollout is complete to countries who, by then, are in a similar position, but it's difficult to predict which ones at this stage," it said in a statement.

The airline will continue providing repatriation and freight flights from overseas.

Customers who booked international tickets for travel between October and December will be contacted by Qantas.

The company says it will keep reviewing its plans in the lead up to December.

Flights to and from New Zealand are unaffected.

AAP.

12 May 2021, 11:34 am

'Where's this climate emergency?'

Kindly enjoy this footage of Malcolm Roberts debating a giant paper-mache Scott Morrison head.

12 May 2021, 11:05 am

International students and migration agents say they feel let down by Budget

Australia’s Indian community, including international students, migration agents and industry experts, say they feel let down with the migration-related announcement in the budget. 

On Tuesday night, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg revealed the government’s assumption that permanent and temporary migration would begin to gradually restart halfway through 2022.

According to a joint media release by Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews and Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, the government intends to maintain the 2021-22 Migration Program ceiling at 160,000 places, including 79,600 skilled and 77,300 family stream places.

Source: Supplied by Amritesh Maurya

But this announcement didn't go down well with students, migration agents and experts in Australia.

“In the wake of the pandemic, it does seem to be a fair Budget from a migration point of view. However, laying emphasis on onshore applicants does not ensure that Australia is recruiting the best talent,” registered migration agent Seema Chauhan told SBS Hindi.

“The education sector seems to be haemorrhaging into a coma, and extra emphasis could have been given on bringing students into Australia at the earliest as many are finding an alternative education destination."

Read the full story at SBS Hindi. 

12 May 2021, 10:40 am

When might we return to a surplus?

Josh Frydenberg hasn't totally given up on returning future budget surpluses, but for now his main aim is to drive the unemployment rate lower.

The Treasurer's third budget is still forecasting sizeable budget deficits over the next few years and a surplus is not projected in at least the next decade.

Asked on ABC radio whether he would still be in the parliament when the budget is back in surplus, Mr Frydenberg replied: "I'm not going anywhere."

"But I can tell you that my number one goal has to prevent a generation of Australians going into long-term unemployment."

The Treasurer defended another budget spend-up, saying Australia is still in the middle of a pandemic.

"We are recovering and recovering strongly ... but at the same time we have to secure the recovery," he said.

"Treasury have said the initiatives from this budget will create 250,000 jobs."

AAP.

12 May 2021, 10:21 am

'Childcare is not a women's issue'

Some strong comments from Labor senator Katy Gallagher just now on childcare subsidies making up nearly half of the new spending for women:

"It's a very old-fashioned way of looking at childcare. I think any working parent knows that it is not a women's issue. I mean, how you care for your children is a shared responsibility across the family. But it has been used to bulk up presentationally for a headline how much this government is spending on women's issues.

"But childcare should not be seen as a women's issue. Yes, it affects how women work and the hours with which they work and as often as primary care giver, but the responsibility around childcare is a family issue."

12 May 2021, 10:15 am

Labor says Budget is a 'missed opportunity for working Australians'

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers has just given a press conference accusing the federal government of "leaving Australian workers behind".

"Everything that they've done to get Australia through the pandemic is a cut in real wages," he told reporters. "It's not a recovery if Australian workers get left behind. It's not a recovery if Australian workers have to cop a cut in their real wages. It's not a recovery if Australian workers don't get a slice of the action.

"One of the problems that we have with the budget last night - it was a massive missed opportunity to set this country up for the future in a way that lets working Australians get a piece of the action.

"The thanks that working Australians have got from this Morrison Government after all they've been through is a cut in their real wages."

Source: AAP

This budget is, however, prioritising creating jobs in some sectors.

A half-a-billion-dollar extension of the JobTrainer program is expected to provide nearly 200,000 cheap or free training places in areas of skills need, including aged care and IT.

A new $1.5 billion injection into the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy aims to help more women break into non-traditional trades.

More than $63 million over four years has also been pledged to fund an additional 2,700 places in Indigenous girls academies, aimed at helping them finish school enter the workforce.

12 May 2021, 9:56 am

Scott Morrison denies election budget slush fund

Scott Morrison has denied squirrelling away billions of dollars in the federal budget ahead of the next election.

The budget sets aside almost $10 billion for projects already signed off on by the federal cabinet but not yet announced, including $3.8 billion in the next year alone.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has accused the prime minister of funnelling money into a slush fund to splash on election commitments.

The government has also delivered a $74.6 billion big-spending budget, fuelling speculation it is preparing for a looming election.

But Mr Morrison said he was squarely focused on the fight against the pandemic this year.

"The only fight I'm focused on, the contest I'm focused on, is fighting this pandemic to ensure we can protect the lives and livelihoods of Australians," he said on Wednesday.

"I leave the politics to others. As I said, the election is next year."

AAP.

12 May 2021, 9:21 am

Universities left reeling as borders closed until mid-2022

Universities could face a grim future after last night’s Budget assumed the country’s borders will remain shut until mid-2022. 

Before the pandemic, international education was Australia’s third-largest export industry, worth about A$40 billion a year to the wider economy.

Due to COVID-19, Australian universities shed at least 17,300 jobs in 2020 and lost an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue compared with 2019.

Budget documents show there will be no extension of last year’s research package and a funding reduction of 9.3 per cent for universities and 24.2 per cent for vocational education between now and 2024-25.

Eden Gillespie over at The Feed has covered off this topic in-depth - you can read the full story here.

Source: AAP

12 May 2021, 9:07 am

Federal government 'holding Queenslanders to ransom': Cameron Dick

The federal government is holding Queenslanders to "ransom" by only delivering half of a promised $1.6 billion in infrastructure funding before the next federal election, the state government says.

The Morrison government has added another $15 billion to its 10-year infrastructure pipeline for road and rail projects in state and territories.

State Treasurer Cameron Dick was already fuming that South Australia, with a population of 1.77 million, is getting more funding than Queensland with a population of 5.18 million.

He says the budget papers show that just over $800 million will be delivered over the forward estimates, meaning the remainder will come after at least one and possibly two more federal elections.

"Tonight, we have learned the truth: only $807.5 million of that supposed $1.6 billion, barely half of the amount promised, is in this budget," Mr Dick said in a statement.

"Scott Morrison is holding Queenslanders to ransom, saying they'd have to vote for him in at least two more elections before we'd see the money he promised."

He said his state would also receive a smaller amount of federal infrastructure funding than "Liberal states", particularly South Australia which has a less than half of Queensland's population.

"NSW gets nearly twice as much infrastructure investment as Queensland, while a city the size of Rockhampton effectively moves north here across the border," Mr Dick said.

"Scott Morrison's failure to deliver for Queensland is written in black and white in the pages of this budget."

12 May 2021, 8:25 am

'The government had two jobs this year. They have bungled both.'

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has accused the federal government of failing to account for either the vaccination rollout or hotel quarantine in the budget.

Appearing on ABC News Breakfast, the opposition leader was asked whether the government's refusal to guarantee that all Australians would be vaccinated by the end of the year created uncertainty for the year ahead.

"Absolutely," Mr Albanese replied. "And it just takes one break-out to put a big hole in the budget or a further hole in the budget. There's also not a plan for quarantine.

"The government had two jobs this year to get right — the vaccination rollout and quarantine. They have bungled both.

"This is a budget for Scott Morrison's short-term political future, not for Australia's future."

He also criticised spending in other sectors, saying there's "nothing about wages in terms of aged care workers" and a cut to infrastructure projects.

"It's all about short-term political expediency, and wages are going to not keep up with the cost of living over the next four years. That's the damning indictment of this government in its own budget papers."

12 May 2021, 8:16 am

What about tourism?

The tourism sector is another one that's not terribly pleased about this budget. 

The assumption is that international borders will remain closed for at least another year, until mid-2022.

Josh Frydenberg said there was a "very substantial package of announcements that we have made to support the aviation, the tourism sector, as well as the arts and the entertainment sector", as well as international education providers.

"All of whom have been affected by the border closure, but also the overall health restrictions that have been put in place," he said. 

"Most popular ticket out of Melbourne is to go up north to Queensland for people to take advantage of those half-price airfares. When it comes to that international border closure, again, that’s an assumption - not a policy decision.

I"t’s an assumption that borders will gradually reopen from next year. But important to that is how the virus is being contained or, indeed, spreading around the rest of the world. We’ve seen the terrible images out of India. We know that there are new variants of the virus and so, those sort of issues will be factors in the mind of the Chief Medical Officer when they’re providing advice to Government."

12 May 2021, 8:07 am

Will the government expand quarantine facilities?

The Prime Minister was asked whether he would consider expanding quarantine, on the back of a new local case in Victoria from hotel quarantine in South Australia.

Asked whether the government should consider building a separate Howard Springs-type facility, he said: "We've already invested in the Howard Springs facility. Half a billion dollars. This month it goes from 850 to 2,000 people, which will enable us to be particularly bringing those commercial repatriation flights for people coming back from India.

"The Victorian government has put forward, I think, a very good proposal and we're working through the detail of that right now.

"And so we will work with the states and territories. Hotel quarantine is one of many links in the chain."

He praised Australia for having the most "secure system" for quarantine in the world.

"I have seen the state and territories only improve their effectiveness on that tracing and testing, which ensures that we can keep Australians safe through COVID."

Just on that note, we will have more today on the man who tested positive in Melbourne's north. He returned a positive test result on Monday, which was re-confirmed on Tuesday.

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