Treasurer Joe Hockey announced the much-anticipated 2014 Federal Budget last night, and as expected, it was followed up with comment and debate from industries across the country.
While some sectors stand to benefit from extra funding and support, others will be left disappointed at cuts and reforms that could make things even more difficult in an already tight economy.
We take a look at how the Budget could impact four key sectors in Australia, and what experts in these industries have to say about this year’s announcements.
On the whole, healthcare is one of the industries that will suffer the most from the 2014 Budget.
This year’s Budget introduces increased co-payments, meaning patients will have to pay more for their basic healthcare needs. Of particular concern here is the fact that these new measures will hit the segments of the population already most in need of assistance – such as the elderly, Indigenous groups and patients with chronic diseases.
Patients will now be required to pay more out of their own pocket to receive treatment, for example from their GP, for emergency services and at the pharmacy.
Professor Geoffrey Dobb, vice president of the Australian Medical Association, commented that the Budget is “full of pain for patients”.
“Many Australians already pay a co-payment, and there is a place for co-payments for patients with the right model – but this is not the right model. It does not have the right protections,” he warned.
Alison Verhoeven, chief executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, appeared to agree with Professor Dobb’s sentiments.
“Evidence from numerous sources shows that the elderly and those with chronic disease are hit hardest by co-payments resulting in them delaying or avoiding seeking care,” she explained.
“We should be implementing systems that improve access to health care for those most in need – not creating more barriers.”
Additionally, the lack of state and territory funding could threaten public hospitals across the country, forcing patients to wait longer to receive treatment. Reduced state and territory funding for public dental care was also highlighted as a concern, with potential impacts on patient waiting times.
Those involved in Australia’s transport sector – especially in the field of railway engineering – will likely have mixed reactions to the Budget. Although it has committed $40 billion into the country’s infrastructure over the next four years, this is offset by cuts to substantial rail funding.
Bryan Nye, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association, welcomed the $2.7 billion the government is investing in rail but said this is “a mere drop in the ocean” compared to the almost $30 billion allocated for road funding.
“This Budget is a reflection of the federal coalition government’s attitude towards infrastructure funding, which unfortunately is roads, roads and more roads,” Mr Nye said.
“[The Budget] has shown a drastic decrease in planned funding for rail transport over the next four years, with the federal government’s investment in rail decreasing by 42 per cent come 2015 and almost 70 per cent come 2018.”
As a result of this, Mr Nye explained, more pressure will be placed on state and territory governments to supply funding for rail development. Additionally, although the Budget includes extra support for existing rail projects, it does not promise funding for new projects.
A strong higher education system is crucial to developing the country’s next generation of talent, and the Budget has recognised this, investing heavily into improving Australia’s education and research.
The Budget introduces a range of exciting new initiatives and programmes that are set to boost higher education in Australia, ensuring it remains competitive on a global scale. Some of the highlights include direct Commonwealth financial aid to those studying diplomas and bachelor degrees with registered higher education institutions, a new Commonwealth scholarship scheme targeted at disadvantaged students and sweeping improvements to the HELP loan system.
Students will be able to benefit immediately from these changes, with the need to pay tuition fees upfront eliminated, for instance.
The Budget also allocates $11 billion over four years towards research at Australian universities, ensuring the country stays at the global forefront of cutting-edge research and innovation.
Mining and resources
As one of the country’s hotspots for the mining and resources sector, the Budget represents a “mixed bag” for Queensland, according to one of the state’s industry authorities.
Michael Roche, chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council, said this year’s budget was filled with an equal measure of support and unexpected cuts for the sector.
“The infrastructure spending package is to be welcomed, particularly for essential projects in Queensland such as the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing. Similarly, the concessional loans scheme designed to encourage the take-up of trades training is timely with the take-up of apprenticeships in the current business climate under renewed pressure,” he said.
However, he noted this was let down by heavy cuts to funding for carbon capture and storage (CCS) development technologies.
“It is clear that CCS technology development is not so much an option but a necessity in seeking to extend energy security globally while reducing the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions,” he asserted.
What does the 2014 Budget mean for you? Please leave the comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts.