Media Circus: leaks galore as a Labor government Budget surplus looms

by Callum Foote | May 9, 2023 | Government, Latest Posts

Federal Budget this evening will likely be an anti-climax. At least as far as good news is concerned such as the first surplus in years. The leaks have been coming thick and fast as is political custom. Callum Foote reports before he descends into the hollow vaults of the Budget lockup this afternoon.

Looks like everyone got their share of the leaks, from the ABC to Sky News. Each frontbencher also had their time in the sun over the last month, flying around Australia carrying “announceables”.

From quarter billion dollar stadiums in Tasmania to National parks in the Territory government ministers have been hard at work convincing Australians that they’re up to the job.

To quote Greg Jericho, this feels like the most leaked budget in years.

Here is a list of all the drops I could come up with.

1. ABC, Sunday morning, targeted energy bill assistance

The Treasurer sat down with ABC’s political editor Andrew Probyn on Sunday to deliver this “drop”.

“Five million households and one million businesses will receive up to $500 relief on their power bills under a $1.5 billion package in Tuesday’s federal budget.”

2. Sky News, Sunday morning: Jobseeker payment increase

Sky News Political Editor Andrew Clennell has claimed that the budget would include an increase in JobSeeker payments “across the board” of up to $40 a fortnight, which would be “ratified” in an Expenditure Review Committee meeting.

“I am told the JobSeeker increase could be up to $40 a fortnight,” Mr Clennell said.

“To deliver a surplus and not deliver such assistance when JobSeeker is just $49 a day would have really angered the Labor base.”

Others have contradicted this, saying that it will still only be for those over 55 years old.

3. Albanese, press conference Monday morning: Single parenting payment cut-off lifted from eight to 14

Extension of single parenting payment, $1.9 billion.

4. Pay rise of 15% for aged care workers

This was “leaked” by Aged care minister Anika Wells and Jim Chalmers last Wednesday, at a cost of $11.3bn.

5. A $2.2bn Medicare plan

Prime Minister Albanese pulled rank on this decision and accounced it two weeks ago, just after the National Cabinet meeting on 28 April. It’s set to Include new National Disability Insurance Scheme funding of $720 million.

6. New anti-vaping laws

Getting his fair share of the frenzy of announceables, Health Minister Mark Butler announced this at the National Press Club last Tuesday. Additionally, he announced a $50m funding boost for research into long Covid  on  26 April.

7. Arts getting $535m

Never one to be left behind, Arts Minister Tony Burke was out real early with the announcement of a funding boost for cultural and historical institutions on 4 April.

8. The (not so popular) football stadium

The much publicised funding of the Hobart AFL stadium to the tune of $240 million was announced by Albanese last week, too. And on the same day, but much less publicised, an announcement to fund $65m for the redevelopment of the UTAS Stadium in Launceston.

9. Questacon

Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic and Minister for Finance, Katy Gallagher got together on 1 May to announce the $60m in new funding for the Questacon facility at the Australia’s National Science and Technology Centre in Canberra.

10. A $19bn response to the Defence Strategic Review

According to the SMH, “That spending includes: $3.8 billion to harden infrastructure at air bases and other military facilities in northern Australia, $400 million to increase Defence Force recruitment, including a $50,000 bonus for service personnel who complete their initial training, $4.1 billion to acquire more long-range strike weapons and develop a local missile manufacturing industry and $3.4 billion over the next decade to establish the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator to spur defence industry innovation”

11. Energy relief

The $314m in energy relief to small business was announced by multiple ministers in a media release on 30 April. There may be more to come tonight – stay tuned…

12. Commonwealth National Parks

In addition to her thankless task of assessing new coal mines, Tanya Plibersek announced $262 million for parks on 26 April.

But wait, there are more leaks

A plethora of others, actually. These from the pages of the primary beneficiaries of the leakage, The Age and SMH:

  • Australian Institute of Marine Science, $163.4 million – to refurbish the agency’s Townsville headquarters, and fund equipment including a new research vessel.
  • Electric vehicles, $146.1 million – to support electric vehicle uptake, including funding for electric vehicles charging infrastructure.
  • Protecting marine habitats and wildlife, $14.8 million – includes funding to remove abandoned fishing gear.
  • Early childhood education and care worker training, $72.6 million – support for backfilling positions while workers undergo training, with a focus on re-skilling and training particularly in regional and remote areas.
  • New centres in childcare “deserts”, $18 million – grants of up to $900,000 to establish new early childhood education and care facilities in areas of limited supply.

And it’s not just expenditure decisions being leaked, but extra savings and new revenue in the budget:

  • Savings from existing programs, $17.8 billion – includes savings from $7.8 billion in Defence spending.
  • Drop in interest bill, $10 billion – Lower global interest rates and higher revenue has helped shave $10 billion off the interest bill on government debt.
  • Tobacco excise, $3.3 billion – increasing the tax on tobacco and cigarettes by 15.8 per cent is expected to raise $3.3 billion over three years.
  • Superannuation tax change, $3.2 billion – lifting the tax on superannuation earnings for balances over $3 million, from 15 per cent to 30 per cent.
  • Petroleum Resources Rent Tax reform, $2.4 billion – additional revenue from changing PRRT, paid earlier than otherwise obliged by offshore petroleum and gas companies.

I haven’t added it all up, but it makes me wonder what’s left to uncover tonight. Stay tuned…

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Callum Foote was a reporter for Michael West Media for four years.

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