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, 7:47 am

PM says he can't guarantee all Australians will be vaccinated by end of the year

The federal government has not been able to guarantee that all Australians will be fully vaccinated by the end of the year.

Speaking to ABC News Breakfast this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked whether he could guarantee that all Australians would get both doses by 31 December.

"No," Mr Morrison said. "There are assumptions that go to the rollout. They are not policy settings. 

"We will see over-50s being able to go to GP clinics, all around the country, to our GPs. We will soon hit three million Australians vaccinated. We're already over 10 per cent of the adult population. That is eligible for the vaccination.

"Over 30 per cent for those aged over 70. We will continue to do everything we possibly can to ensure we're progressing that vaccination program."

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg likewise refused to give an end date.

"Obviously, our focus is to roll out the vaccine as fast as possible, and that assumption in the budget last night was based on the best medical violence from the Chief Medical Officer," he told the ABC in a subsequent interview. "And we've seen more than 400,000 people receive a dose over the course of the last week. That's up from the week before.

"Around 10 per cent of the population has already been vaccinated. Around 30 per cent of the population of those aged over 70. So we're getting more supply online. We've got around 5,000 contact points set around the country, including GPs and other state and territory based clinics. That is all designed to ensure that we get the vaccine out as fast as possible to as many people as possible."

"We're not seeking to eliminate the virus," he added. "You can't do that. It's stubborn, it's deadly, it is all around. What we can do, though, is manage those outbreaks effectively when they occur." 

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12 May 2021, 7:22 am

Good morning!

Good morning - and welcome back to our rolling 2021 federal budget coverage. 

The Coalition has unveiled its second federal budget since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

There's been a lot to unpack in this budget, but those who have been prioritised in this one include the aged care sector, people seeking mental health support, low and middle-income earners, and job seekers in certain sectors.

Those who will miss out include welfare recipients, the arts sector and prospective offshore migrants.

There's more in-depth analysis on that here, but keep following our blog for rolling updates as the day goes on.

11 May 2021, 10:54 pm

And, that's a wrap (for tonight)!

And that's where we are going to leave things, folks. 

Thank you for joining us as we covered the government's big investment promises, including in migration, immigration detention, domestic and family violence and disability. We've looked at the winners and losers in this budget, and some of the main reactions as the government was applauded for its social spending but criticised for leaving vulnerable Australians behind. 

There's a lot more to unpack from tonight's budget, so we'll be back here in the morning.

Until then, goodnight.

11 May 2021, 10:28 pm

ACOSS welcomes social spending, but says vulnerable Australians are left behind

The Australian Council on Social Services (ACOSS) welcomed efforts to improve essential services, while criticising the neglect of vulnerable Australians.

"The budget provides much-needed funding to finally start fixing some of the gaping holes in our aged care, childcare, mental health, and domestic violence services," council chief executive Cassandra Goldie said.

"So far the government has given around $20 billion dollars in personal tax cuts to people already in paid jobs for the next financial year, plus tens of billions in business tax incentives.

"But not a single cent more to people living in deep poverty, including women on low incomes."

Charity Mission Australia said the budget displayed a "disappointing lack of leadership on affordable housing".

"The essential social infrastructure of social housing has been ignored yet again while the federal government continues to heavily invest in other infrastructure. Where is the leadership and innovation which this issue desperately requires?" chief executive James Toomey said.

"While we acknowledge the government’s investment in measures to help support people into home ownership, including single parents through the Family Home Guarantee, these do not go far enough to address the structural problems with housing and homelessness in this country."

11 May 2021, 10:22 pm

'An extraordinary budget for mental health,' Lifeline chair says

Another substantial investment outlined in this year's budget is $2.3 billion towards mental health over the next four years, targeting suicide prevention, expanded services, workforce needs and new treatment centres. 

Lifeline Australia chair John Brogden said it was an "extraordinary budget for mental health". 

He said  he hoped a new 24/7 Indigenous mental health helpline would "stem the tide" of higher suicide rates among Indigenous Australians.

Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray said the government's $12.8 million commitment to set up a National Suicide Prevention Office is a major step that could lead to a meaningful reduction in lives lost to suicide. 

“We’ve been sitting at a suicide prevention crossroads. We have been calling for a National Suicide Prevention Office, supported by a suicide prevention act for some time and now major reform is possible," he said. 

He noted some of the reforms announced are contingent on a national agreement with the states and territories, scheduled for November. 

Readers seeking support with mental health can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. More information is available at Beyondblue.org.auEmbrace Multicultural Mental Health supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

11 May 2021, 10:07 pm

Aged care sector has a mixed response

As we've reported, one of the most significant investments in this budget will be aged care, with the government promising $17.7 billion to overhaul the scandal-prone sector

The Australian Council on the Ageing welcomed the investment as the "biggest aged care investment in a generation". 

"This is a serious and meaningful response to the ‘neglect’ identified by the Aged Care Royal Commission and the need to transform the industry," council chief executive Ian Yates said.

In contrast, the Health Services Union said the funding boost would not fix a sector that has been in "chronic crisis for years".

"For carers, therapists and support workers there is no commitment to permanent, better paid jobs," union national president Gerard Hayes said.

"Clearly, the Government’s plan is to continue exploiting the goodwill of an insecure, underpaid workforce of women."

You can read more on the sector's response and many others, here: 

11 May 2021, 9:59 pm

Budget 'will not improve insecure work, lower wages,' ACTU says

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has responded, saying the Morrison government's budget decisions "will not improve the central issues facing working Australias - insecure work and low wage growth". 

In a statement, the ACTU welcomed the government's rejection of austerity but said it has failed to use spending to tackle these issues and is instead "handing billions of dollars to business, including in the critical areas of aged care, mental health and vocational training, will little accountability or strings attached". 

"Insecure and unreliable jobs are a brake on economic growth, wage growth and a fair recovery," ACTU President Michele O'Neil said. 

"This budget has done nothing to create more secure, reliable employment or increase wages." 

The ACTU says the budget also fails to take decisive action to adress the underlying issues which cause gender inequality, with the women's budget measures being "small, delayed and piecemeal". 

 

11 May 2021, 9:41 pm

Labor criticises government's 'political fix' federal budget

Labor has released its response to this year's budget, accusing the government of using it as a "shameless political fix" without a proper job creation plan. 

More from AAP: 

While Treasurer Josh Frydenberg made employment the centrepiece of his third budget, the federal opposition believe he missed an opportunity.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said the government had delivered another marketing exercise that failed to address key issues.

"It is a shameless political fix, rather than the genuine reform needed to make Australia's economy stronger, broader and more sustainable," he said.

Dr Chalmers seized on wage growth forecasts which are around the same levels the cost of living is predicted to increase.

"Despite spending almost $100 billion and racking up a record $1 trillion in debt, the Morrison government's budget reveals real wages will go backwards," he said.

Mr Frydenberg said the measures in the budget would lead to 250,000 new jobs over the next two years.

But Dr Chalmers said the failed JobMaker hiring credit, which created 1100 of the 450,000 jobs promised after last year's budget, meant the figure wasn't credible.

"For eight long years, this government has overseen record low wages growth, chronically high underemployment, and it still doesn't have a credible plan to create secure jobs."

Aged care received a $17.7 billion package, while $3.4 billion will be spent on women's economic security and safety.

"They're now cynically using their eighth budget to pretend they care about the issues and Australians they've ignored in the last seven," Dr Chalmers said.

He said the aged care funding fell short of recommendations from a damning royal commission.

Labor also attacked the government's $15 billion in new infrastructure spending, saying the area had been cut in the long-term by $3.3 billion.

"Just because the recession could have been worse, doesn't mean the recovery can't be better."

11 May 2021, 9:36 pm

Josh Frydenberg's pledge to boost domestic and family violence support

As we've reported, the government has vowed to deliver an almost $1 billion boost to domestic, family, and sexual violence frontline services and supports over four years. This more than doubles its current commitment of $340 million over three years. 

“One in four women experience violence from a current or former partner, this must stop,” Mr Frydenberg said from Canberra. 

“We must do more to end all forms of violence against women and children.” 

Josh Frydenberg unveils $1.1 billion plan for women's safety

But even with the massive boost in funding, women’s safety advocates have warned at least $1 billion in federal government support is needed per year to close the gaps in available services.

Hayley Foster, chief executive of Women’s Safety NSW, previously described the government’s promise to double their investment in the sector as a “good start” but called for a “four-fold increase” on the funding. 

“This is about recognising the magnitude of this problem as the single biggest preventable driver of premature death, disability and illness in Australian women aged up to 45 years of age,” she said. 

11 May 2021, 9:22 pm

More than $13 billion for the National Disability Insurance Scheme

The budget papers contain another $13.2 billion for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for the next four years, which follows a $3.9 billion pledge in the last budget. 

It also forecasts that supports covered by the scheme, which reaches five years in full rollout later this year, will cost $31.9 billion in 2024-25.

As our reporter Evan Young reports, this comes as the government looks to roll out controversial independent assessments almost unanimously opposed by the disability sector.

11 May 2021, 9:12 pm

Budget assumptions based on 'best available evidence to us,' Josh Frydenberg says

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has started his round of post-budget announcement television interviews, starting with the ABC's 7.30 program.  

Leigh Sales questioned Mr Frydenberg the budget is based on a series of assumptions - that the whole Australian population wil be vaccinated by the end of the year, that there'll be no sustained state border closures this year nor major outbreaks and that international borders will start to operate normally by the middle of next year. 

"Those are very uncertain and heroic assumptions, aren’t they?" she asked the treasurer. 

"We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and making assumptions during normal times is difficult - to make them during the middle of a pandemic is even more so.Those assumptions are based on the best available evidence to us," Mr Frydenberg said. 

"We know that more than 10 per cent of the Australian population has now received their first dose. We’ve seen 30 per cent of those aged over 70 or above receive a dose. We saw more than 400,000 doses rolled out over the course of the last week. More supply is coming online.

"With respect to international borders, it’s quite a conservative, cautious assumption that international borders will gradually reopen from the middle of next year."

 

 

11 May 2021, 8:51 pm

Funding boost for targeted domestic and family violence services

The government has promised more than $998 million over four years to boost domestic, family and sexual violence services and supports. 

As our reporter Maani Truu reports, almost $165 million of the new funding is earmarked for a two-year trial of ‘Escaping Violence Payments’ – a $5,000 payment to be made available to women and children escaping violence through frontline domestic and family violence services.  

A further $261 million will go towards establishing a national partnership with the states and territories to improve funding of frontline family violence services.  

More than $29 million will go towards supporting migrant and refugee women experiencing violence through grass-roots programs, and economic and social supports.  

The new measures more than double its current commitment of $340 million over three years.

11 May 2021, 8:37 pm

'Australia is coming back': Josh Frydenberg's opening remarks

Did you miss Josh Frybenberg's speech in the House of Representatives this evening, as he handed down the budget? 

We've got you covered. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg reveals $161 billion deficit from pandemic

11 May 2021, 8:33 pm

Who are the winners and losers this year?

With a number of new policies revealed tonight, our reporter Evan Young has looked at who is set to benefit.

Who does the budget prioritise?

  • People seeking mental health support, with $2.3 billion pledged over over the next four years
  • Domestic and sexual violence survivors, with almost a billion dollars promised over four years for measures aimed at women and children experiencing domestic and sexual violence, including a two-year trial program offering women fleeing a violent relationship up to $5,000
  • The aged care sector, with a new $17.7 billion package aimed at revamping a sector that was heavily criticised in a damning royal commission report.
  • Low and middle-income earners, with a new tax cut the government says will save individuals $1,080 and couples $2,160 in the next financial year. An already-announced $1.7 billion childcare package is also largely targeted at low and middle-income families.
  • Job seekers in some sectors, with a half-a-billion-dollar extension of the JobTrainer program 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 also aims to help more women break into non-traditional trades.  

Who has missed out? 

  • Welfare recipients, with the budget papers containing no new major welfare measures. 
  • The arts sector, with few big announcements announced for a sector that has been hit harder than most by COVID-19 restrictions.  
  • International education, with only $53.6 million set aside for international education providers despite the budget containing billions of dollars of support for the education sector as a whole. 
  • Prospective offshore migrants, with this year’s budget assuming temporary and permanent migration won’t restart until at least mid-way through 2022.  
  • The environment, with the budget's measures likely to fall short of what climate activists would have wanted.

You can read more on those in Evan Young's report here: 

11 May 2021, 8:19 pm

Almost $500 million to boost capacity within immigration centres

More than $467 million has been set aside to increase capacity in Australia’s immigration detention centres, which have become crowded due to international travel restrictions limiting deportations. 

The budget includes $202 million to be spent on increasing the capacity of onshore facilities and Christmas Island’s North West Point detention centre before the end of the financial year, and an additional $263 million in 2021-22. 

More from our reporter Maani Truu on this, here: 

 

11 May 2021, 8:10 pm

No increase to migration caps but hopes to reopen borders by mid-2022

There will be no increase to the number of people able to migrate to Australia once international borders reopen in 2022 despite population forecasts predicting a second year of negative net overseas migration.  

As our reporter Maani Truu reports, the cap on people migrating to Australia will remain at 160,000 in 2021-22 as the government continues to focus on onshore applications and reducing the partner visa backlog at a cost of almost $300 million over four years. 

Family and skilled stream places will remain at 2020-21 levels, while the humanitarian program will also remain capped at 13,750 places per year.

Mr Frydenberg said temporary and permanent migrants are expected to begin gradually returning from half-way through 2022, with the exception of some international students who are expected to return this year.

You can read more about migration in this report from Maani Truu: 

11 May 2021, 8:01 pm

Big spending commitments on aged care, mental health and disability support

And with that, let's dive in. 

Mr Frydenberg has started outlining the government's plan to "secure Australia's economic recovery and build the future" -  one that continues to protect Australians from COVID-19, creates jobs and guarantees essential services.

As expected, the budget delivers big spending commitments on aged care, mental health and disability support. 

The government is also boldly banking on a massively ramped-up vaccination program - predicting it can vaccinate all Australians who want the coronavirus jab before the end of the year

In response to the royal commission into aged care, the government has promised $17.7 billion to overhaul the scandal prone sector. 

Another $2.3 billion will be directed towards mental health and suicide prevention and $13.2 billion in additional funding towards the National Disability Insurance Scheme. 

You can read more on these top line announcements from our reporters here: 

11 May 2021, 7:42 pm

Australia's COVID-19 response 'came at a cost'

Mr Frydenberg said Australia's response to the pandemic "has come at a significant and unavoidable cost". 

He said the COVID-19 recession will see the country's deficit reach $161 billion this year, falling to $57 billion in 2024‑25.

But with more Australians back at work, this year’s deficit is $52.7 billion lower than was expected just over six months ago in last year’s budget.

Net debt will increase to $617.5 billion or 30.0 per cent of GDP this year and peak at $980.6 billion or 40.9 per cent of GDP in June 2025, Mr Frydenberg said. 

But the treasurer said Australia is better placed than nearly any other country to meet the economic challenges that lie ahead. 

"As a share of the economy, net debt is around half of that in the UK and US and less than a third of that in Japan," he said. 

"Consumer sentiment is at its highest in 11 years. Business conditions reached record highs. And more Australians are in work than ever before. Our plan is working.

"Australia’s economic engine is roaring back to life."

 

11 May 2021, 7:39 pm

Josh Frydenberg unveils Australia's 2021 federal budget

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is handing down the 2021-2022 federal budget.

Speaking in the House of Representatives in Canberra tonight, Mr Frydenberg said "Australia is coming back". 

"In the face of a once-in-a-century pandemic, the Australian spirit has shone through. Doctors and nurses on the frontline, teachers and students in the virtual classroom, businesses, big and small, keeping the economy moving. Team Australia at its best, a nation to be proud of." 

"We have come so far since the height of the pandemic."

Mr Frydenberg said while Treasury feared unemployment could reach 15 per cent and the economy contract by more than 20 per cent, "today the reality is very different". 

"Ahead of any major advanced economy, Australia has seen employment go above its pre‑pandemic levels.

'At 5.6 per cent, unemployment today is lower than when we came to government. This is remarkable. Australia’s fate could have been so much worse.

"The United Kingdom, France and Italy all contracted by more than eight per cent, Japan and Canada by around five per cent. Australia, just 2.5 per cent."

11 May 2021, 7:25 pm

WATCH: Josh Frydenberg set to deliver this year's federal budget

We're standing by to bring you Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as he hands down this year's federal budget around 7:30pm. 

You can watch all of the action below

Live Stream SBS News

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