Bill Shorten's budget promises: from higher education spending to a tax cut contest | Australia news
1. Scrap upfront fees for 100,000 Tafe studentsBill Shorten has announced a plan to scrap upfront fees for 100,000 Tafe students at a cost of $380m over five years in his budget reply speech on Thursday.
Shorten said despite many trades facing skills shortages and high unemployment in some areas, workers “can’t learn the skills that industries are crying out for”.
“Tafe is the best place for young Australians to develop these skills in the communities that need them,” he said. “Labor’s policy to scrap upfront fees will make it easier for Australians to gain the skills they need to get a trade, a traineeship and a quality job – and make it easier for businesses to fill skills shortages.”
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry education and training director Jenny Lambert welcomed the announcement but asked for detail on how it would be implemented in tertiary education systems administered by the states.
2. Uncap university places by ending funding freezeShorten confirmed that Labor would restore funding to universities and aim to increase graduates by 200,000 over 12 years, a claim Labor based on modelling by the Mitchell Institute.
In December the Coalition cut $2.2bn from universities, predominantly through a two-year freeze in commonwealth grants funding for teaching and learning. Universities Australia estimated the measure would leave 9,500 university places unfunded in 2018.
Shorten said: “I am pleased to announce Labor will restore funding certainty to our universities. We will uncap places providing our nation with more than 200,000 university graduates.”
3. Improve income tax cuts by ‘almost double’Shorten said that Labor would support the government’s proposed tax cut this year but in its first budget would “deliver a bigger and better tax cut for 10 million working Australians”.
At a cost of $5.8bn over four years, it would support the 2018-19 tax plan and commence the planned tax refund from 2019-20 so that more than 4 million working Australians would be better off by $398 a year compared to the Liberals.
“In our first term of government, a teacher on $65,000 will be $2780 better off under Labor – an extra $928 a year,” Shorten said. “A married couple – one partner in the ADF earning $90,000 and the other working in aged care on $50,000 – will be $5,565 better off under Labor, $1,855 a year.”
4. More funding for public hospitalsThe budget in reply revealed Labor would spend an extra $2.8bn in funding for public hospitals from 2019-25.
“We’ll put more beds in emergency departments and on the wards so we can reduce the wait for people sitting in emergency rooms worrying about a child or a loved one who’s hurt or unwell,” Shorten said.
5. 500,000 more MRI scans funded by MedicareShorten said Labor would invest $80m to boost the number of eligible MRI machines and approve 20 new licences – meaning 500,000 more scans funded by Medicare over four years.
“A Shorten Labor government will ensure more communities have affordable access to life-saving scans, expanding Medicare-subsidised access to diagnostic imaging in areas where there are shortages,” he said.
6. $25m to tackle corporate crimeShorten committed to give $25m to establish a corporate crime taskforce, to equip the commonwealth public prosecutor to respond to recommendations for criminal prosecution that stem from the financial services royal commission.
Shorten said the Coalition was cutting money from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, which he branded “a disgrace” and “immoral”.
“The government tried talking tough on this but wagging your finger in the bank’s face means little when you’re giving them a tax cut with your other hand,” he said.
“Upping a penalty also does nothing if corporate criminals with deep pockets and big legal teams know they can outspend the government.”