The Morrison government has splashed the cash in a pre-election federal budget – but what’s in it for young people? Hatch’s Rhys Williams reports.
In a budget delivered just days before the expected calling of a federal election, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg put an acute emphasis on addressing youth mental health, but Newstart payments and climate change were among issues of concern to younger voters that received little attention.
In one of its most significant announcements, the Government said it would invest $737 million in mental health programs to combat the rise of suicide in Australia, with Mr Frydenberg labelling youth suicide a “national priority” during his maiden budget speech.
“It is a national tragedy that we lose so many people to suicide and that so many people live a life of quiet desperation,” he told Parliament on Tuesday night.
Mental Health Package
As part of a comprehensive plan to assist Australians living with mental health issues, the Government pledged to open 30 new Headspace centres, costing $111 million and bringing the total number of Headspace centres to 145 by 2021.
The package also flags a $114.5 million five-year trial period for eight new mental health treatment centres, which will have nurses and psychologists on site to provide free relief to anyone seeking urgent assistance, including after normal working hours.
In response to the high suicide rate among indigenous youth, the budget is investing $5 million in mentoring and peer support for indigenous youths.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Indigenous Australians are six times more likely to commit suicide than non-indigenous Australians, with the majority of suicides happening before the age of 35. Since the start of this year there have already been 12 suicides of Indigenous people, including three who were found to be under the age of 12.
The Government’s commitment to direct only $5 million out of the $737 million to indigenous youth suicide prevention received widespread condemnation, with suicide prevention campaigner Gerry Georgatos describing it as a “moral and political abomination”.
Denounce budget as punishing people in poverty https://t.co/4j1Z9uYD32 $461m for youth mental health but only $5m over four years earmarked for addressing Indigenous youth suicide, described by suicide prevention campaigner Gerry Georgatos as a “moral and political abomination.”
Additionally, $5.5 million over four years has been allocated for counselling victims of natural disasters; $46.7 million has been invested over seven years to assist the mental health of new parents; Early Psychosis Youth Services will receive $109.7 million over two years, and $15 million will go towards new research statistics on mental health.
The budget itself contained no increase in assistance for people on the Newstart payment – but the morning after the budget, Mr Frydenberg announced Newstart recipients would be eligible to receive the energy assistance payment of $75 for singles and $125 for couples.
Disclosed on page 159 of the budget, only single parents, age pensioners, disability support pensioners, carers and veterans and widows of war qualified for the energy assistance payment . But after heavy criticism of the move to exclude those on Newstart, the Treasurer reversed the decision.
Coming up on the RN edition: @JoshFrydenberg on the budget… and in breaking news, the newly announced Energy assistance payment will be extended to those on Newstart – listen in. @abcnews
Newstart hasn’t received an increase that is relative to the rising cost of living in Australia for several years, with many arguing the current payment is unsustainable. There was much debate heading into the budget on whether or not the Government would boost Newstart payments, but the one-off energy supplement payment is the only result.
The Government has invested $523 million towards vocational education and training (VET), which will go towards the creation of 80,000 new apprenticeships and double the incentive an employer receives (from $4,000 to $8,000) for bringing on a new apprentice.
The Government will also be trialing new school-based VET training hubs in areas of Australia where there is high youth unemployment, costing $67.5 million.
A National Careers Institute will be established to assist with giving career advice to jobseekers, while also pledging $8.5 million to create 400 new training scholarships.
This has been labelled by the Government as a major investment, but the Opposition’s education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said it came after six years of heavy cuts to TAFE and training.
The Government will invest $2 billion over 15 years in the Emissions Reduction Fund, a program that pays polluters to reduce their emissions that was set up by former prime minister Tony Abbott.
The Government’s climate solutions funding was said to be allocated for 10 years – according to interviews the Prime Minister gave earlier this year – but the budget papers say that it is actually 15 years, which will result in just $189 million being put towards climate action over the budget period.
That’s all the gov is spending on its signature climate ‘policy’ over the Budget period.
There’s more new money for the Cairns Ring Road than for climate change.