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
11 May 2021, 7:21 pm

'Fund our future not gas,' say climate youth activists

Youth activists have left a strong message for the government outside Parliament House this evening, spelling out "fund our future not gas" in candles. 

"Young people will be paying the bill of this federal budget for decades, while simultaneously living through the worsening impacts of climate change," the Australian Youth Climate Coalition posted on Twitter.

"We're on Parliament lawn calling on the government to fund our future not gas!"



11 May 2021, 7:09 pm

What do we know so far?

With about 90 minutes to go before the treasurer steps up at 7:30pm, here's where we are at. 

Mr Frydenberg is expected to deliver a big spending budget tonight, and has sold the plan as one focussed on job creation to drive economic growth during an uncertain global outlook spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We're expecting big spending on women, childcare, aged care, disability and mental health as well as tax offsets for low and middle-income earners. 

To get you up to speed on where the government will spend big, how COVID-19 fits in and why all of this matters, here's a preview from our reporter Tom Stayner: 



11 May 2021, 5:29 pm

Budget set to deliver $2.3 billion boost to mental health support

More spending on mental health support is expected in tonight's budget.

According to this report from AAP, the government will announce a $2.3 billion package over the next four years, adding to major commitments already made during the Black Summer bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic.

The mental health plan will be built on five key pillars:

  • Almost $250 million will be spent on prevention and early intervention, including the creation of an online platform to provide professional counselling, support and referrals.
  • Another $300 million will be allocated to suicide prevention.
  • For the first time, in partnership with the states and territories, the government will fund 'after care' for every Australian discharged from hospital following a suicide attempt.
  • At least $1.4 billion will go towards child, youth and adult mental health treatment centres. Vulnerable communities will receive $107 million in extra support, with money set aside to update a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention strategy.
  • And, $202 million will be spent boosting workforces and improving governance.

The government has framed the extra investment as the first phase of its response to a Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health, as well as a report delivered by the national suicide prevention adviser.

The funding injection should bring its government's mental health spending to about $6.3 billion in the next financial year. The coalition is keen to point out the projected figure is 90 per cent higher than when Labor was last in power.

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

11 May 2021, 5:03 pm

Scott Morrison dismisses Greens' proposals to tax the rich

Also during Question Time, the PM dismissed calls from the Greens to support its policies of taxing billionaires, promising a "comprehensive plan to secure the economic recovery of this country". 

As AAP reports: 

Greens leader Adam Bandt wants Mr Morrison to impose a six per cent tax on billionaires' wealth and introduce a new super profits tax on big corporations making excessive profits.

Mr Bandt argues one in three of Australia's biggest corporations pay no tax, and while the country's billionaires increased their wealth by a third during the coronavirus pandemic, many ordinary citizens have suffered.

Source: AAP

He believes it is time to make the mega rich pay their fair share of tax, but Mr Morrison dismissed the proposals during Question Time. 

"I won't be listening to the Greens and neither will the treasurer and the Australian people who value their jobs and the strength of the economy, which is what actually pays for essential services," the prime minister said.

"This seems to be something that escapes (Mr Bandt) and the Greens, and I suspect many who sit on that side."

Despite grim debt and deficit forecasts stretched across the horizon, the prime minister said the Liberal Party would always favour lower taxes, arguing higher levies would strike out business enterprise and initiative.

"We believe that Australians should keep more of what they earn," Mr Morrison said.

"We believe a dollar kept in the hands of an Australian family is better than a dollar kept in the hands of the government."

11 May 2021, 4:34 pm

Victorian health minister calls on federal government to 'do its bit' and fund quarantine facility

As Question Time has been underway, Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley has been speaking to reporters about a man who tested positive to COVID-19 in the state after returning from overseas and undertaking hotel quarantine in South Australia. 

Responding to questions about hotel quarantine, Mr Foley said tonight's budget is a "golden opportunity" for the Commonwealth to "step up and do its constitutional duty and fund, with the states, a quarantine facility such as that proposed by Victoria". 

Victoria has asked the federal government to build and own a new COVID-19 quarantine facility, north of Melbourne. The proposed centre would need $200 million in federal funds, with the state chipping in $15 million for design and planning. 

"There is example after example of the leakage out of hotel quarantine that continues and this would appear to be another example. And there is every indication that we are going to be in a position of some form of closed borders for many, many months, if not years," he continued. 

"We cannot continue to have a situation where it is the states disproportionately bearing the load in this quarantine process. And, tonight's budget is an opportunity for the federal government to step up and do its bit and see to its constitutional duty of managing quarantine in partnership with the states and fund the proposal."

11 May 2021, 3:59 pm

What will the budget deliver for aged care?

Scott Morrison is asked about aged care during Question Time. The government has already revealed it will commit at least $10 billion to aged care over the next four years in response to a royal commission into the sector which uncovered troubling and systemic issues.

The money is expected to be diverted towards increasing home care packages and building the workforce. The government already contributes more than $21 billion a year to aged care. 

Mr Morrison said the budget would include the government's full response to the aged care royal commission. 

"The royal commission into aged care has provided us with a well of information to make sure we can deliver a response tonight which addresses the challenges that have been faced, not just in recent times as the royal commission highlighted, but going back over several decades," he said.

The final report into the two-and-a-half federal inquiry was released in March and had 148 recommendations, including to create a new Aged Care Act to ensure older Australians receive high-quality support and care. 

You can read more about the recommendations here. 

11 May 2021, 2:51 pm

Scott Morrison says budget will be framed against 'humanitarian tragedy' of COVID

Scott Morrison has addressed the budget in Question Time.

In addition to spruiking its focus on job creation and increased funding for aged care, mental health and the NDIS, he said we are facing "uncertainty" and that the budget will be framed against the "humanitarian tragedy" unfolding in other countries around the world.

"Whether that uncertainty stems from the security of our region, the pandemic which we face, or the challenging climate which the world is faced with over the next 30 years and beyond," he said.

"Mr Speaker, our world does remain uncertain. The pandemic continues to rage. This will be our government’s second pandemic budget tonight. Because we are under no illusion the pandemic continues to rage across the world, as it is extended from the developed world now into the developing world, as we see the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in places like India and indeed as it will continue to move across other parts of the world in the months ahead.

"It’s against that pandemic background that tonight’s budget is framed."

Consider this a preview of the sort of rhetoric to expect tonight - a lot of references to "uncertainty" but also a lot of optimism.

Source: AAP

11 May 2021, 1:35 pm

'Profound improvement' in this year's budget bottom line, says Finance Minister

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham says there has been a "profound improvement" in the nation's budget bottom line.

Economists are expecting roughly a $155 billion turnaround in the deficit, which would be a vast improvement on the $198 billion shortfall estimated in December's mid-year budget review.

Senator Birmingham has done little to temper expectations.

"We have seen a profound improvement in relation to this year's budget bottom line," he told the ABC.

"That is as a result of the fact that the economy has been performing more strongly, particularly more Australians back into jobs.

"We know that by getting more people back into jobs, we reduce the welfare wheel, we increase the taxation and the revenue coming in."

Source: AAP

Senator Birmingham said having 200,000 fewer people on JobSeeker unemployment benefits had alone delivered a $5 billion turnaround.

"You get other dividends that flow through across the economy," he said.

"That's why at the heart of tonight's budget, our focus is on how do we keep jobs growth continuing, because that is how we can make sure we can pay for essential services Australians want us to pay on."

- AAP.

11 May 2021, 12:48 pm

Labor says 'women-focused' budget is an attempt to cover recent scandals

Labor says the women-focused budget is in direct response to the scandals that have plagued Parliament House these past few months.

Opposition frontbencher Katy Gallagher accused the government of attempting to cover over failures to support women.

"Do you honestly think the Morrison government would have had a women's package if it wasn't for the pressure they've been under in the past three months?" she told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

"In last year's budget we were told that women were lucky because they'd built an extra lane on the highway, on the Barton Highway, that was their women's package.

"And you told me the two things aren't linked? Of course they are linked."

Source: AAP

Mr Frydenberg has confirmed the budget will include additional funding directed towards domestic violence support, following demands for more assistance for frontline services.

It's been reported by Nine newspapers the budget will more than double funding for domestic violence prevention to at least $680 million. 

The federal government has also announced it will invest $353.9 million over the next four years towards women's health programs, including funding directed towards cervical and breast cancer screening programs, the mental health of expecting parents, eating disorder programs and genetic screening of embryos. 

The government insists the initiatives are not designed to address recent controversies around sexual harassment and assault.

If you want to read more on this topic, here's a feature we can last week on what women are expecting from the budget this time around.

11 May 2021, 12:28 pm

Climate activists stage budget protest in Canberra

Dozens of climate activists have staged a protest to briefly stop Commonwealth cars driving politicians to Parliament House.

Extinction Rebellion protesters blocked the entrances to Canberra's COMCAR depot early Tuesday morning.

A 21-year-old man chained himself to the wheel of one vehicle, while a woman locked herself to the gate.

Police arrived shortly after 6am and gave the small crowd their marching orders.

Source: AAP

The environmental activists wanted to highlight the need for the budget to include climate change measures.

"We must treat the climate and ecological emergency in the way that we treated the coronavirus emergency," the group said.

"It must be a central priority of the budget and of all government decision making."

Source: AAP

So what can we actually expect in terms of climate change policies in tonight's budget?

In the lead up to the budget, the federal government has committed to $565 million towards low emissions technologies, $263 million for carbon capture and storage and $275.5 million for regional hydrogen hubs.

The federal government has also allocated $600 million towards the establishment of a new National Recovery and Resilience Agency. The national agency will support communities hit by natural disasters by helping them rebuild and recover.

At the same time, it is establishing a new Australian Climate Service that will attempt to monitor the impacts of climate change and inform the agency. 

Climate activists, however, say the so-called "jobs budget" is taking Australia ever closer to the brink of environmental collapse.

11 May 2021, 11:56 am

Victoria's arts sector to receive additional $170 million

A bit of budget news here - albeit not of the federal kind: The Victorian government will spend another $170 million to revive the state's creative arts sector.

The money will include funding towards a major redevelopment of the Geelong arts centre, with a new 500 seat theatre and a second 250 seat theatre.

"The last 12 months has been incredibly hard on everyone, but particularly our creative arts sector," Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters on Tuesday.

There will also be $33 million for the Melbourne Museum to develop a "Gondwana Garden" and a Triceratops gallery, which will house a 67 million year old Triceratops, billed as the world's most complete dinosaur fossil.

About $10 million will go to the live music industry to support restarting live concert tours.

The statewide package is expected to create about 20,000 jobs.

The government unveiled a $190 million four-year package for the screen industry on Monday, which it says should support another 40,000 jobs.

With AAP.

11 May 2021, 11:12 am

Shadow Treasurer likens budget to 'political con-job'

The federal opposition, meanwhile, has described tonight's upcoming budget as a "political con-job".

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers said "if the government really cared" about its budget highlights - such as aged care, mental health and job creation - we would have "seen some sort of action in the last eight years".

"I don't think the government deserves a pat on the back for trying to fix some of the mess they've created," he told ABC radio this morning.

He also said the vaccine rollout had been a "debacle from the very beginning".

"This budget is definitely designed to get Scott Morrison through the election - we don't want another political con-job."

His comments echo those of opposition leader Anthony Albanese, who accused the Morrison government of not having a "long term" economic plan.

“They don’t advance social reform, and they certainly don’t have a climate policy or an energy policy," he told reporters from Canberra this morning.

Mr Albanese also accused the Morrison government of leaving stranded Australians in limbo.

“This government said regarding Australians who are stranded overseas that they’d all be home by Christmas, and we know there’s 30,000 Australians stranded," he said. “So you have to look at what this government does, not just what it says.”

11 May 2021, 10:35 am

Craig Kelly could spend $1000 of taxpayers' money on this stunt

Former Liberal MP Craig Kelly - who is now an independent after his controversial tweets regarding COVID-19 - has been out and about this morning with a bunch of fake notes.

He’s making some point about the Budget and Australia’s debt levels, with notes featuring a picture of Ned Kelly.

“It’s a tribute to the gangsters and villains of the past,” he tells reporters in Parliament House.

He’s revealed the printing cost of the money pile amounts to $1000 - which could come out of his printing allowance.

Nine News reporter Jonathan Kearsley says Mr Kelly has since told him he has yet to invoice the print job to taxpayers and “should pay for this actually myself".


11 May 2021, 10:33 am

This year’s Budget winners and losers

We already know some of the winners and losers of the budget from pre-announcements made by the government.

Here are some of them:

  • Aged care residents: at least $10 billion over the next four years towards increasing home care packages and building the workforce.

  • Some families: low-and middle income families with two children under five are being promised lower childcare fees, and those earning more than $180,000 will have the subsidy cap removed. But there’s a catch - the perks won’t start until June 2022, possibly after the federal election.

  • Job seekers: school leavers, young Australians and those who are unemployed will get help training and reskilling with the government expected to extend the JobTrainer program providing free or low-fee courses targeting areas of skill shortages, including aged care, IT and childcare.

  • First home buyers: they’ll be able to release $50,000 from their super as long as they live in the properties they buy, an increase of the current $30,000. There’s also 10,000 new spots for the home loan guarantee scheme that allows people to put a deposit on with just five per cent. Additionally, single parents will also only have to put down a deposit of only two per cent under an expanded scheme.

  • Roads and rail users: $10 billion on infrastructure projects over 10 years, including $2 billion for a new Melbourne Intermodal Terminal link for freight rail services, $2 billion will go towards the Great Western High Upgrade from Katoomba to Lithgow in Sydney’s Blue Mountains.

  • Domestic violence victims - the budget will reportedly more than double funding for domestic violence prevention to at least $680 million.

  • Climate change and natural disaster mitigation: $600 million towards the establishment of a new National Recovery and Resilience Agency, helping communities hit by natural disasters rebuild and recover. There’s also a new Australian Climate Service to monitor the impacts of climate change and inform the agency.
11 May 2021, 9:30 am

Australia's multicultural body disappointed at lock-up exclusion

Besides journalists, various stakeholders and interest groups are also invited to the Budget lock-up to see what’s in the papers before the public.

This is so they have an idea of what to respond to and be prepared when the media asks them for their reaction about announcements or changes made in the Budget.

However, not everyone is invited and this year it seems the nation’s peak multicultural body has been excluded.

CEO Mohammad Al-Khafaji says it’s not the first time either.

It's an interesting decision given there is always inevitably a Budget measure that affects migrants and multicultural communities.

11 May 2021, 10:34 am

So when will you find out what’s in the Budget?

Everything will be revealed at 7:30pm (AEST) tonight.

That’s when Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will deliver his budget speech to federal parliament and when all the stories written by media outlets, including SBS News, will be released from embargo.

As with previous years, journalists are ‘locked up’ with the Budget papers between 1pm and 730pm (AEST), at which point their news content is released for publication for you to read, listen or view.

11 May 2021, 8:46 am

Will the real Budget tree please stand up?

You know it’s Budget day when the Parliament House Budget tree is at its red, fiery best. 

But this year it’s looking a little worn - perhaps a sign of the times?

Nevertheless, it has been pointed out that Finance Minister Simon Birmingham may be thinking optimistically, tweeting an old picture of the Budget tree.


11 May 2021, 8:05 am

Treasurer says there'll be 'assumptions in place' on vaccine rollout, border timelines

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has just made a press conference appearance, where he spoke about what to expect from the budget in terms of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and borders.

He said that, at this stage, the federal government will only be making "assumptions" around the issues due to the unpredictability of the pandemic.

"In tonight's budget, we make some assumptions around vaccine rollout and around border closures and around the containment measure that is are put in place in respect to COVID-19. But it's very hard to be precise in the middle of a pandemic," the Treasurer told reporters.

"There's a lot of uncertainty, globally and domestically, with respect to the virus. So tonight's budget has those assumptions in place. But the key point is – we'll always follow the medical advice and we'll always do our best to keep Australians safe."

11 May 2021, 8:01 am

Australia's borders 'unlikely to reopen' until next year

One of the biggest questions we’re all thinking about is when exactly Australia’s borders will reopen.

The good news is that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has told SBS News the government “has an assumption in the budget” that will be revealed tonight.

The bad news? Our borders are unlikely to reopen until at least next year.

In a sit-down interview with SBS News, Mr Frydenberg said the expectation is that migration will begin again in 2022.

But he said our borders would only reopen when it was safe to do so, based on “medical advice”.

“We've got to follow the medical advice. That medical advice has helped keep Australians safe, that medical advice has helped keep the virus at bay here in Australia, and with a strong health position, we've had a strong economic recovery, and it's vitally important we continue to follow the medical advice, with respect to borders."

You can read the full interview with the Treasurer here.

11 May 2021, 7:42 am

Why should we care about this budget?

In short, tonight's budget is an especially important one as we navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia’s stronger-than-expected economic recovery from the crisis has seen unemployment levels fall faster than expected and bolstered the upcoming budget's financial position.

But it wasn't all that long ago that Mr Frydenberg oversaw the largest budget deficit since World War II - $85.3 billion in 2019-20 - with at least a $150 billion shortfall expected in the current year.

A $197.7 billion deficit had been estimated in the Treasury's mid-year budget update in December, itself a revision from the record $213.7 billion announced in the October budget.

Mr Frydenberg says the upcoming budget - his third as Treasurer - will prioritise job creation, before turning its focus to repairing the nation’s bank balance.

“We need to continue working hard to drive the unemployment rate lower - that is what the budget will do,” he said last month in a pre-budget address. "Our economic plan is working but the job is not done."

The government’s recalibrated fiscal policy will focus on pushing unemployment to a figure with a "four in front of it", which it says is needed to achieve accelerated wage growth and inflation.

The position stands in stark contrast to its pre-pandemic focus of bringing the budget back into the black but has broad support from economists.