The 2020 Federal budget has been released, albeit 5 months late as the Coalition government struggled to come to terms with the last year of constant upheaval. The bushfires followed by the Coronavirus pandemic mean that pre-existing issues within Australia, both economically, socially, and mentally have been brought to the forefront, and this year’s budget reflects the Coalition’s priorities during this time.
The only aspect of the budget that focuses on mental health is a welcomed increase to the number Medicare funded psychology services from 10 to 20. This is in-line with increases given earlier this year to Victorians struggling with ongoing lockdowns, but now made accessible Australia-wide.
Alongside this, there are more announcements scheduled as part of the Productivity Commission’s reports on mental health and suicide, but we will not hear about these until sometime within the next few weeks.
People currently on Disability and Aged Care Pensions will, alongside carers, receive two cash payments of $250 as part of their regular payments. Those within the aged care space will also benefit from a $1.6 billion increase in spending within this sector.
For those on Jobseeker, payments are set to decrease back to their pre-pandemic rates by the end of December. This, coupled with the current and expected rise in unemployment, is troubling for the overall wellbeing of countless Australians who rely on these already subpar payments to get by.
There has also been no funding allocated for social housing despite this being a key recommendation proposed to the government earlier this year by their own working groups.
The government also aims to address youth unemployment by paying incentives to business’ to hire people under the age of 35 who are currently unemployed. The incentives, though, are minimal compared to the drastically high rate of youth unemployment that has resulted from the current economic crisis.
Women and Migrants
The Budget’s mention of a Women’s Economic Security Statement has fallen drastically short, with only $240 million set aside and no concreate plan or strategies aimed at supporting women. Women have been some of the hardest hit by the current economic crisis, and women’s mental health is currently of specific concern. A lack of funding in female dominated sectors, as well as a lack of funding for childcare to assist women in returning to work, means that this budget has done little to support women during these times.
The Australian Government also plans to cap places on migration and refugees, increasing the barriers faced by these demographics to settle in Australia. The exception to this is that some benefits are coming to those looking to apply for partner visas.
Overall this budget has earmarked a lot of funding for big business’ and tax cuts for higher income earners, as well as industries like private construction. It is disappointing that these are the priorities of the Coalition Government during a period of rising unemployment, mental health challenges on the rise, and country-wide uncertainty