Challenging budget makes a promising start, with more to be done

A surge in revenue due to war-time commodity prices and strong tax revenue from high employment has been banked by the Albanese Government. It leaves a Budget that begins to deliver on election commitments yet still grappling with surging inflation and rising cost of public services.

Paid parental leave is to be expanded, ending a decade of stagnation—as discussed in our recent podcast—in a policy area where Australia once led the world.

And there are welcome increases to child-care support, housing supply, climate policy capability, and programs addressing gendered violence. Likewise, there are positive measures on barriers to vocational and higher-education participation and skills shortages; particularly in high-need areas such as teaching and nursing.

For the higher education sector, the announcement by Treasurer Jim Chalmers of 20,000 additional Commonwealth Supported university places over the next two years is welcome. As is the unannounced but much needed increase to indexation of higher-degree research training and research support programs (which includes block funding for Australia’s learned Academies). There is also increased indexation in funding for national research infrastructure and Australian Research Council grant programs; all in line with projected inflation.

Despite these and other welcome measures, serious challenges remain in the near term. Most notably, an increasing structural deficit (approaching $50B) discussed in detail by the Academy’s President Richard Holden in his column (paywall).

Overall, this budget indicates a Government serious about its work, and willing at least to begin the discussion about more significant reform ahead.