Budget 2021 reaction: splash of cash but universities and renewables left in the cold – Australia politics live updates

Budget 2021 reaction: splash of cash but universities and renewables left in the cold – Australia politics live updates

Paul Karp

Adam Bandt: “This Budget is built on wage cuts. It’s tax cuts for billionaires and handouts for big corporations, but real wage cuts for workers and poverty for the unemployed.”

Paul Karp

This is the basis for Greens, Labor, unions saying real wages are being cut. Inflation > wage growth.#auspol #ausunions

May 11, 2021

Grogs has also been writing on this:


Labor’s Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher will hold a small press conference at 10am to discuss budget reaction.

The Greens will hold a similar presser at 10: 40am.


And along with the fact the international border is expected to remain closed for another year at least (a whole other year – which means stranded Australians have up to a year to wait to come home) there is also the issue of wage growth which doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it should.

Greg Jericho

For me these are the most important number out of the budget – slower wages growth than ever before, and nothing predicted over 2.5% till 2025.

Remember the RBA says wages need to grow above 3% in order to get interest rates to rise

May 11, 2021


There was nothing in the budget (again) for dental.

It’s kind of amazing how little fuss there is about an entire section of health being excised from universal healthcare. If you have ever needed to get to a dentist and can’t afford one, so have had to wait for a publicly funded position, you know just how detrimental to your health and life lack of access to good dental care is. I grew up with the school dental van visits as my only access to dental care and have had to rely on dental vouchers more than once.

The president of the Australian Dental Association New South Wales (ADA NSW) Dr Kathleen Matthews wants people to think about the impacts of a lack of access to dental care, particularly given the focus on aged care:

More than six out of 10 over-75s in Australia suffer from gum disease, while more than one in three Australians aged 75 and over have complete tooth loss.

The royal commission into aged care quality and safety heard distressing evidence of older patients going without basic dental care such as toothbrushing and denture cleaning.

Sadly the budget has failed to address the oral health needs faced by older Australians.


And you can catch up on what happened with Andrew Laming (I mentioned a little bit below) here:


Mel Davey has all the info on Victoria’s latest Covid case – no new restrictions as yet, but it is a watch and wait situation (the good news is that so far, the man’s close contacts have tested negative).


The thing with this budget is that the next financial year is pretty hunky dory – but after that, the economy is predicted to contract. Economic growth is forecast to slow, and wage growth is low. Loooow.

The election has to be held in the next financial year. So whenever we go to the polls, things will be looking a little rosier than what is meant to be coming beyond June 2022.

Here was Jim Chalmers on that this morning (speaking to ABC radio):

The government’s priority is to do whatever’s necessary to cobble together enough political fixes to get them through an election.

It’s remarkable that they spent $100bn. They wracked up a trillion dollars in debt, yet still we have real wages going backwards, still got the aged care funding falling short of what the royal commission recommended.

They still haven’t undone all the damage they have done over the last eight long years of their government. The politics should be secondary here, genuinely. They should be secondary. We want to get a good outcome for people. One thing that worries us, even if some investment in some areas is welcome – mental health for example – we have a station where after all this debt, and all this new spending, which has been committed for political not economic reasons. At the end, what are we left with? Real wages are going backwards in the government’s own budget.


In case you were wondering, no, there was no funding for the “drums” of war in the budget. Not even for drum pads. No synths of war either. The budget was decidedly silent on that proclamation from the would-be defence secretary, Mike Pezzullo.

Rex Patrick though has some thoughts on a “more proactive”, indeed offensive [cyber] strategy including:

  • Publicly naming the Chinese government as a major source of cyber attacks and attributing responsibility for specific intrusions.
  • Imposing targeted sanctions against individuals and organisations involved in the Chinese state’s hacking and cyber warfare programs.
  • Imposing a direct diplomatic price for cyberattacks that can be attributed to the Chinese state or its proxies by progressively expelling Chinese diplomats and consular officials from Australia.
  • Being prepared to use Australia’s significant offensive cyber capabilities to retaliate in kind, including targeted intrusions and actions against Chinese state-owned enterprises operating outside China, Chinese communist propaganda outlets and Communist Party controlled United Front organisations.

Another focus should be on exfiltrating data from Chinese state agencies that highlight the Chinese state’s systematic human rights abuses and the rampant corruption that pervades the top echelons of the Communist Party power structure.

HMAS Ballarat of the Royal Australian Navy cruises alongside US Navy ships.

HMAS Ballarat of the Royal Australian Navy cruises alongside US Navy ships. Photograph: Getty Images


Speaking to the Nine network this morning, Scott Morrison, a former treasurer and owner of the phrase “I said we brought the budget back to surplus next year” (wonder if he has considered turning that into a NFT) was a little defensive about the lack of forecast surpluses in the budget:

There’s not one scheduled and foreseeable within the next decade because of the significant investments we’ve had to take.

This wasn’t a choice, this is something we had to do. Josh Frydenberg and I constantly … It has nothing to do with philosophy, it has to do with a pandemic. If Australia didn’t take the actions it did – as John Howard told me himself, there’s no politics or ideology in a pandemic, there is just government needing to do what we need to do to save lives and livelihoods and that’s what we’ve done.

I couldn’t care less about the politics*. I care a lot about people’s jobs, about their health and doing what is necessary. The only opponent I have right now is the pandemic. That’s the opponent I’m focussed on. That is the fight Australia is in and as Australia’s prime minister that is the fight I’m focussed on.

*Not going to lie, I did choke on my coffee at this point.


Paul Karp

On 4BC Radio, Scott Morrison has responded to Queensland treasurer, Cameron Dick, who complained Queensland had been dudded.

Morrison said that Queensland is getting 27% of infrastructure spending, above its level of 20% of the population.

Asked if the budget sets aside $5.8bn for the Olympics, Morrison confirms that the commonwealth will share expenses with the Queensland government.

He stops short of saying it’s set aside in the budget because it’s not, it’s a contingent liability.

Morrison defended the size of the deficit, explaining that the $311bn spent or to be spent on health and stimulus measures was needed to get Australians back into work and protect their health.

In a dig at the Queensland government’s lockdowns, he said the federal government had “underwritten” those measures by providing payments to keep Queenslanders in jobs.


I am just reading through the Hansard to catch up on what went on in parliament while we were in budget lock up, and it looks like Labor moved a motion to have Andrew Laming removed as chair of the Employment, Education and Training committee – and the entire government voted against it.

That keeps Laming in the role (with the extra $22,000 or so that comes with it).

Member for Bowman Andrew Laming in the House of Representatives at Parliament House on May 11, 2021 in Canberra, Australia.

Member for Bowman Andrew Laming in the House of Representatives at Parliament House on May 11, 2021 in Canberra, Australia. Photograph: Sam Mooy/Getty Images


Labor has refined its budget response since last night – here was Anthony Albanese speaking to the Nine network this morning:

There is a gap between what the treasurer says and what the budget papers show. The treasurer just spoke about wages. It shows that real wages will actually go down, having stalled for eight long years of this government. He spoke about infrastructure investment. They say $10bn of extra infrastructure investment. The budget papers show that there is a cut of $3.3bn over the forward estimates, over the next four years. The treasurer spoke about a plan for jobs. This is a plan for Scott Morrison’s job, no one else’s. There is no long-term plan here. The treasurer spoke about state governments potentially closing borders. And we know they have opposed all of that, but they are closing our border until mid-next year because they haven’t got their act together on the two essential jobs they had this year to get right – the vaccination rollout and quarantine.


We covered this off last night – but just in case you missed it, the budget is also setting aside about $500m to expand Australia’s detention centres – including Christmas Island. That’s because Covid has made it really hard for the government to deport people like it usually does, so we have even more people in detention than usual. Christmas Island, currently home to a young family that just wants to go home to central Queensland, is being “hardened” to be able to handle riots.

So yup. That’s something we are doing (along with making migrants wait at least four years before they are able to access government payments in one of the only saving measures to be found in the budget. Oh and in case you were wondering, no, the government is not going after companies which profited from jobkeeper. That would be crazy!)

There is no money in the budget though, for federal quarantine facilities.


The tourism sector is another industry which is not too happy with the budget – while airlines get a continuing leg up with subsidised flights, not everyone in the sector benefits – and the news in the budget (or the assumption as it’s called) that the international border will remain closed for at least another year has left many tourism operators tearing their hair out.

Here was Josh Frydenberg’s response to that while speaking to the ABC:

Well, there was a very substantial package of announcements that we have made to support the aviation, the tourism sector, as well as the arts and the entertainment sector.

And last night, with international education providers.

All of whom have been affected by the border closure, but also the overall health restrictions that have been put in place. The 800,000 half-price airfares have helped the regional communities like you indicated in Cairns.

Most popular ticket out of Melbourne is to go up north to Queensland for people to take advantage of those half-price airfares. When it comes to that international border closure, again, that’s an assumption – not a policy decision.

It’s an assumption that borders will gradually reopen from next year. But important to that is how the virus is being contained or, indeed, spreading around the rest of the world. We’ve seen the terrible images out of India. We know that there are new variants of the virus and so, those sort of issues will be factors in the mind of the chief medical officer when they’re providing advice to government.


Scott Morrison is still saying the election will be next year.

Things would be so much easier if there were actually just fixed dates, so we didn’t have to do this dance in the last year of every electoral cycle. Anyways, if they win the next election, it will have been 12 years since the last Labor government – and yet it is amazing how much Labor is still to blame for what’s happening!


Ok, cool, but there is a looooong way to go – will we all get the double dose?

Josh Frydenberg:

Again, it’s an assumption based on the best medical advice at this time.

What is really key to our economic recovery and the momentum continuing is that we are able to successfully suppress the virus when there are new outbreaks.

We’re not seeking to eliminate the virus. You can’t do that. It’s stubborn, it’s deadly, it is all around. What we can do, though, is manage those outbreaks effectively when they occur.

That’s why the premiers need to have a proportionate response and that is why it is really important that we remain vigilant – that we extend the health measures in last night’s budget – around telehealth, around respiratory clinic, around GP services and, of course, the procurement of vaccines. More than $3bn in last night’s budget.

So it is critically important that we suppress the virus because this is first and foremost a health crisis that is having a severe economic impact.

That is a textbook non-answer. Start by repeating the answer from the question before and then move on to something related to the subject, but completely unrelated to the question, and finish with a motherhood statement. Classic of the genre.

A queue forms outside at a mass COVID-19 vaccination hub in Sydney, Monday, May 10, 2021.

A queue forms outside at a mass COVID-19 vaccination hub in Sydney, Monday, May 10, 2021. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP


So can Josh Frydenberg guarantee that everyone who wants a vaccine will have their double dose completed by the end of the year?

He tells the ABC:

Obviously, our focus is to roll out the vaccine as fast as possible, and that assumption in the budget last night was based on the best medical advice from the chief medical officer.

And we’ve seen more than 400,000 people receive a dose over the course of the last week. That’s up from the week before. Around 10% of the population has already been vaccinated. Around 30% of the population of those aged over 70.

So we’re getting more supply online. We’ve got around 5,000 contact points set around the country, including GPs and other state and territory based clinics. That is all designed to ensure that we get the vaccine out as fast as possible to as many people as possible.


As I mentioned, the post-budget interviews are happening from the prime minister’s courtyard this morning – usually the treasurer and the PM head out into the lawns and go from tent to tent to speak with the hosts of the breakfast TV or radio shows who have flown to Canberra for the budget – but Extinction Rebellion, protesting the lack of action of climate change, are outside the parliament, which has kept Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg inside the parliament.

(Which means we all miss out on one of the most awkward photo ops of the year as they walk out and then back in and do some sort of weird overly enthusiastic elbow bump or something. Tragic.)

The line today is a continuation of what we heard last night – the budget supports the recovery, debt doesn’t matter because it’s been a huge economic shock which dwarfed the impact of the GFC and that makes it totally different (even though Labor’s spending response during the GFC is what kept Australia out of recession) and it addresses what the government said it was going to address.

Labor though, still seems to be smarting over the Coalition’s attacks following the GFC and has decided to follow a similar line – it’s questioning the responsibility of the “trillion dollar debt” and will be pushing that line hard.

Just remember money is very, very cheap for government’s to borrow at the moment. The interest in the repayments is loooow. And a government budget is not (and never has been) like a household budget. Still, Labor is banking on people still being uncomfortable with the debt, and will be working it for all it can.

Extinction Rebellion protestors on the front lawns of Parliament House in Canberra this morning.

Extinction Rebellion protestors on the front lawns of Parliament House in Canberra this morning. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian


Good morning

Hello and welcome to post budget reaction day, where all the nitty gritty details of the budget begin to emerge, as the government works triple time at its sell.

You’ll hear a lot more about the university sector and spending for the environment today – both of which missed out on any major increases, at a time when it’s pretty crucial.

Extinction Rebellion have already staged a protest outside the parliament which has kept the prime minister and treasurer inside the building – usually they would be outside doing the rounds of breakfast TV and radio interviews on the lawn. Not today, though.

The budget is also based on the assumption Covid is under control in Australia and everyone who wants a vaccine will have one by the end of the year. So a lot has to go right.

Plus, it’s not exactly what you would call a “women’s budget” despite the hype – the tax write offs and concessions are worth about 10 times what the government is doing to subsidise second children in child care – and that won’t start until 2022.

So there is a bit to go through (as always).

Thank you so much for joining us – Mike Bowers is already out and about, and Katharine Murphy, Daniel Hurst, Sarah Martin and Paul Karp will be joining you soon for their take on the budget. Plus, we have question time. Huzzah. You have Amy Remeikis with you for most of the day. I know how much you miss the comment section – truly, we do too, and we are doing our best to keep it open for as long as we can. For those who have missed it, it comes down to legal issues – we are legally responsible for everything which is published on the site and our social media, including comments (according to recent court decisions) so when we talk about ongoing court cases, we have to be extra careful – and that usually means switching the comments off. We’re doing it to keep everyone safe, but we understand it is frustrating. We don’t take the decision lightly, I promise.

Anyways, I have already hit the coffee pretty hard – so it should be an interesting day. Ready?

Let’s get into it.


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