The 2023 Budget has been released, and if you’re like me, you usually let this slide under the radar. However, getting older and paying bills has made me more interested in what is going on in the world of politics and how certain things are affecting me and students alike.
For the first time in 15 years, the government has achieved a surplus of $4.2 billion this financial year which, whilst it sounds good, isn’t necessarily. It means a decline in investment revenue and higher taxes. The Australian Greens so eloquently say on their Instagram, “F*ck your surplus… Every dollar of budget surplus is a dollar not spent lifting people out of poverty. It’s not helping students”. This surplus is due to the profitability of mining, coal, and gas companies, as well as an increase in employment rates resulting in more people paying taxes. Unfortunately, don’t expect a big bonus with your tax return. While certain areas will receive more funding, this surplus will not result in individual lump-sum payouts.
Cost of living
We have all been feeling the pressure with the increased cost of living and the government is taking steps to provide support – or so they say. For those who receive Austudy or Youth Allowance through Centrelink, they will receive a $40 increase in their fortnightly payments. Sounds good right? Unfortunately, this increase in financial support is still below the poverty line. Additionally, to “help” with the rental crisis, the maximum rates of Commonwealth Rent Assistance will be increased by 15%. Furthermore, individuals who are pensioners, veterans, concession cardholders, or receiving government support payments will receive up to $500 in energy bill relief which unfortunately, won’t go very far for struggling individuals.
Single parents who receive a single parent payment will see significant improvements as the maximum basic rate of payment for eligible parents and carers will increase from $745.20 per fortnight to $922.10 per fortnight. The government has also expanded the payment period to allow parents to continue to receive financial assistance until their children reach the age of 14. This policy change provides parents with more flexibility, as they won’t be pushed back to work once their child turns eight. Starting from 20th September 2023, single parents will no longer have to transfer to JobSeeker when their youngest child turns eight, which should help ease their financial burden. Unfortunately, the $2.85 increase from $50 per day in JobSeeker payments are STILL well below the poverty line which is $88 per day. The @australiangreens Instagram clearly highlights what a joke this increase is, showing that $2.85 can’t even buy instant noodles or a carton of eggs.
International student visa holders may face some limitations, as from the 1st of July 2023, there will be a reinstatement of the work hour cap. International students will be permitted to work a maximum of 48 hours per fortnight, which represents an increase of 8 hours from pre-pandemic levels. While this may limit opportunities for students who rely on their earnings to support their studies and living expenses, there is some relief for those working in the Aged Care industry as they will be exempt from this cap but only until the end of 2023. This makes things additionally hard for International Students who already don’t qualify for other government benefits like Youth Allowance.
The Federal Budget has stated that additional funding towards mental health, disability, domestic violence, and homelessness services over the next four years will be implemented. An additional $4 billion towards these services is a necessary step to meeting demand and providing essential care however, it is ESSENTIAL care and more needs to be done.
The University of Newcastle Student Association’s (UNSA) President Georgie Cooper commented her thoughts on the Federal Budget announcement saying, “While the budget offers relief in certain areas for students and young people, it is far below what is needed to bring many vulnerable people above the poverty line and alleviate the cost of living crisis, especially when we’re about to be hit with a 7% increase in our HECS debts thanks to indexation.”
Before the Budget was released, the National Union of Students (NUS) called on the Labour Government to make changes that ACTUALLY supports students:
- “Change the age of Centrelink Independence from 22 to 18: Currently, 450,000 young Australians are locked out of Centrelink due to this policy.
- Raise the rate of Youth Allowance: The NUS joins the call of ACOSS and the Government’s Economic Advisory Committee to raise the rate of Youth Allowance to $437 per week.
- Increase Rent Assistance in line with market rates of rent.
- Wipe student debt, with an immediate freeze of HECS indexation: With indexation at 7.1% students making the compulsory repayments will still see their debt increase.
- End unpaid placements: The NUS urges the Government to establish financial assistance such as a stipend so that students aren’t relying on their savings to live while undertaking hundreds of hours of unpaid work.”
To receive the 2023 Federal Budget and see little to no change on these points raised, is beyond disappointing. The NUS National President Bailey Riley highlighted the severity of this saying, “Students are struggling to live. Each day thousands of students are making the tough decision to either show up to class or take a shift to keep a roof over their head”.
And so, there’s your student update on the 2023 Federal Budget. To find out more information and learn about other changes within this Budget, Opus encourages you to visit the sites below: