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Australia Budget 2021 backs jobs, mental health and farmers in Queensland but misses support for social housing and tourism

01:06  12 may  2021
01:06  12 may  2021 Source:   msn.com

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Shannon Bath hoped to see funding for social housing in the budget. (ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines) © Provided by ABC Business Shannon Bath hoped to see funding for social housing in the budget. (ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines)

Shannon Bath wanted one thing from the federal budget — support to pull her family out of homelessness.

But like so many others facing the regional rental crisis, the budget has provided no new hope for the central Queensland family-of-seven's need for long-term accommodation.

"When you've got children and looking at remnants of a house packed up in containers and boxes, it's sad for us," Ms Bath said.

The family has been forced to live with relatives while they wait for an affordable rental or social housing.

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Ms Bath said she had been approved for social housing about three months ago but has been told there was a nine-year waitlist.

"I was willing to put seven people in a two-bedroom flat, that's how bad it is," she said.

"There's no emergency housing, no government housing and private rentals have skyrocketed.

"Like who has got $650 a week to rent a home?"

Much of regional Queensland is facing the same battle with Gympie, Southern Downs and the Sunshine Coast all matching Rockhampton's critically low 0.4 per cent vacancy rates.

The REIQ figures from April show no regions outside Greater Brisbane have vacancy rates above 1.5 per cent.

Adrian Pisarski from National Shelter, a group advocating for low-income housing said the housing crisis had been largely ignored by the federal budget.

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"It's frankly very disappointing and a bit pathetic," Mr Pisarski said.

"It won't add one single house into the social housing pool in Australia."

While social housing has long been viewed as a state issue, Mr Pisarski said the scale of the crisis meant the federal government needed to take the lead.

He said at least 400,000 new social housing properties were needed across Australia.

"We're always hoping that the federal government will show leadership and create a National Housing strategy, which establishes a range of incentives to encourage investment in social and affordable housing," he said.

"We don't expect them to do it all, but we do expect them to lead."

Home loan hope for single parents

Hairstylist Laura Deans said this year’s budget gave her a glimmer of hope that she might soon escape the overheated rental market and start paying down her first mortgage.

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The Sunshine Coast single mum has a 12-year-old son and said she had never been able to raise enough money for a home deposit.

She’s hoping the Family Home Guarantee announced in the Budget will help her buy her first home.

Under the scheme, a single parent will be able to purchase a dwelling with a 2 per cent deposit, with the government guaranteeing another 18 per cent of the value of the loan.

“I think it’s such a great opportunity for people like me to get into the property market, instead of paying someone else’s mortgage,” she said.

“I would love to be able to pay off my own mortgage, but saving the money, whilst paying rent and bills and all that kind of stuff is impossible.”

The government might deliver part of the deposit, but Ms Deans questioned whether banks would give a home loan to a single mum working three jobs.

“I’m hoping that the banks will come to the party as well and actually give me a loan because that’s the next hurdle.

“This is the first opportunity that I would get, I assume.”

The First Home Super Saver Scheme has also been boosted.

At the moment under the scheme anyone wishing to save a deposit for their first home can make voluntary contributions to their superannuation fund, capped at $15,000 a year, to take advantage of the special tax treatment of super.

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The maximum they could save under the scheme is $30,000.

That cap has now been raised to $50,000.

Tourism spending in budget 'won't touch the sides'

Yvonne Tunney is struggling to find staff due to international border closures locking out her usual foreign workforce.

The accommodation owner in the tourist town of Karumba, on the Queensland side of the Gulf of Carpentaria, said the budget's promise of easing student visa restrictions for agriculture, tourism and hospitality would do little to help.

“I’m not terribly hopeful that that’s going to have any big impact on the current issues,” Ms Tunney said.

“If you’re a student in Australia then you’re going to want to be somewhere where you can access your courses.

"Or you at least want to be able to access reasonable online services, which rules out a lot of rural Australia."

Cairns tourism operator Richard Berman-Hardman agreed the budget had missed the mark for the embattled sector.

He manages SkyRail, a prominent Far North tourism venture, which had to significantly reduce its operating hours during the pandemic.

“Particularly for the mum and dad businesses out there in the tourism sector who are struggling to pay their wage bills, I'm not sure they'll be super excited about the announcement," Mr Berman-Hardman said.

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"It probably won't touch the sides in terms of what the actual need is from the sector.”

Destination Gold Coast CEO Patricia O'Callaghan welcomed the government's announcements for the tourism sector but said the extra funding would be needed well into the future.

"Investment into Tourism Australia's marketing, I think is a really great initiative," she said.

"The Gold Coast does feature significantly through those campaigns, so this will mean obviously a benefit to the Gold Coast in the in the short-medium in the longer term as well."

JobTrainer an 'economic driver' for communities

Registered training organisation Skills Generation, based on the Sunshine Coast, is one of 48 contractors providing the JobTrainer program since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief executive officer Bruce Bell said the extension of the program's $1 billion of funding for another year would not only help his business but hundreds of those left in the lurch by the economic downturn.

He said the program helped those left without work to access funding so they can quickly re-skill and find a new industry.

"I think over the last six months, we've employed probably a minimum of 12 full-time staff," he said.

"So obviously that in itself is a big economic driver for our local community."

The government's apprenticeship wage subsidy scheme is being extended to the tune of $2.7 billion.

It is expected to help create 170,000 new positions, however there is no guarantee apprentices will be kept on when their training finishes or when the subsidy ends.

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Childcare subsidies needed sooner

Getting women back into the workforce was a big focus of this year's budget, with new funding announced for the childcare sector.

Childcare subsidies will increase by $1.7 billion over three years and it will lift the cap on couples with a combined annual income of more than $189,390.

But Townsville mother and small business owner Kellie Stephenson will not get a benefit until the scheme takes effect in 2022.

"If you have got one child in full-time childcare, fees can go up to $130 a day," Mrs Stephenson said.

"If you have got two, three, four children in childcare, there is no point in going to work unless you're earning massive amounts of money.

"It's our choice to have children but it's so hard when we want to contribute to the workforce as well, to help contribute to our economy.

"Maybe that's why you can't get labour."

Mental health funding to help 'close gaps'

Mackay's Suicide Prevention Community Action Group said a promised $2.3 billion in mental health funding, including $298 million for suicide prevention and support, was incredibly welcomed.

Coordinator Deb Rae said it would close some gaps that exist in funding models between the state and federal governments.

“There was already a high need, but during the COVID-19 pandemic that need became even more obvious in our communities," she said.

“We don’t have places for people who have attempted suicide, they need to travel to Brisbane or Townsville for those services.”

Aileen Addo, the Mayor of a remote Cape York community is relieved by the news the federal government will invest $107 million in mental health prevention in Indigenous communities.

Currently, the community, about 900km north-west of Cairns, has access to visiting mental health professionals and telehealth through the public system.

Cr Addo said she hoped the investment will be used to make care more accessible.

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"If you don't do something now the problem will get bigger and then it's more cost to community, individuals and families.

"If we invest in working people so they're in that good feeling space, then I think we can prevent people from getting mental health interfering and controlling their lives.

Out of the overall package, $1.4 billion will be allocated to a network of Commonwealth-funded mental health centres, specialising in diagnosis and treatment of conditions in adults, youth and children — including the 20 Headspace facilities dotted throughout regional Queensland.

Big machines the big winner out west

Beef producer Bryce Camm watched the federal budget from his home near Dalby on the Western Downs.

He said it was a largely positive budget and he was encouraged to see investment for small businesses and infrastructure.

Mr Camm said the federal government's decision to extend the deadline for the instant asset write-off would mean more farmers buying new equipment.

"We'll see farmers invest with some confidence around bringing particularly large-scale equipment to drive further efficiencies in their business," Mr Camm said.

Mr Camm said he was also happy with $371 million announced last week for improvements to biosecurity.

"Our biosecurity reputation in this country is invaluable to farmers and our businesses and to see the government stand by and strengthen that, it's a positive move."

Mr Camm said he had hoped to see more funding for water and road projects in Queensland.

"Unfortunately, I don't think we saw a lot of new announcements around (water) tonight."

"I think as we secure the nation's productivity, particularly around agriculture, and food security, water investments, by future budgets, is going to be a big necessity going forward."

Additional reporting: Jemima Burt, Tara Cassidy, Chloe Chomicki, Ellie Grounds, David Chen, Tobias Loftus, Jasmine Hines, Jessica Lamb and Nicole Hegarty

We want to hear your questions and comments about the budget and how it impacts you. You can submit your response here.


Video: Budget to include $10b for sector over 4 years (ABC NEWS)

Victoria's post-pandemic recovery 'on track' but budget deficit forecast to be $11.6 billion .
A better-than-expected deficit of $11.6 billion is forecast for next year in the Victorian budget as the state economy bounces back after last year's lockdown.The final deficit for the COVID-hit 2020–21 budget is nearly $6 billion less than forecast at $17.4 billion.

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