More money in the pockets for over 11 million Australians is what the Australian government has promised as it presented its budget on Tuesday evening by announcing tax cuts and younger worker wage subsidies. While big businesses welcomed the announcements, activists panned the budget as being gender inequal.

The global pandemic and recession had resulted in what Treasurer Josh Frydenberg termed “the greatest challenge of our time” but he assured that “the Australian economy is now fighting back.”

“This budget is all about jobs,” said Frydenberg.

Not everyone was impressed. “The Budget will keep unemployment too high for too long, with the jobless rate not expected to return to pre-crisis levels over the next four years,” posted Andrew Barr, chief minister of ACT and the only openly gay head of state in Australia.

The major highlights of the budget announcements were:

  • The government will bring forward tax cuts that will mean up to $2565 in tax benefits for those earning more than $90,000 and $1080 for those earning between $45,000 and $90,000.
  • The Low and Middle Income Tax Offset will be retained for an additional year.
  • The extension to the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme will benefit 10,000 first home buyers.
  • Tax incentives for 3.5 million businesses that have a turnover of up to $5 billion as they will be able to  deduct the full cost of eligible depreciable assets.
  • JobMaker Hiring Credit will grant $200 a week to employers who hire anyone aged between 16 and 30, and $100 a week for any worker aged 30-35. It will support around 450,000 positions for young people, the government has claimed.
  • Welfare recipients will receive $500 and 23,000 additional home care packages for older Australians that will give them the option of living at home.
  • Number of Medicare-funded psychological services will be doubled from 10 to 20.
  • Government says it is committed to investing $14 billion in new and fast-tracked infrastructure projects.
  • A $240.4 million package delivering economic security to women.
  • $16 billion in COVID-19 health measures.

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 CPA Australia, one of the world’s largest accounting bodies welcomed the tax cuts and support for businesses.

“Many small businesses operate as sole traders and these tax cuts will help them with cash flow and put money back into their business. Of course, tax cuts only provide effective stimulus to the extent that they translate to increased consumer spending, ” said CPA Australia General Manager External Affairs Dr Jane Rennie.

Activists and gender rights organisations called out the budget for failing to provide anything substantial for women who have borne the burden of COVID-19 and suffered the most job losses. The hashtag #BanBlokesBasedBudget was used by many to highlight gender inequality in the budget.

“Let’s do the maths. $240.5 Million of expenditure for women’s economic security out of a $670.3 billion in budgetary expenditure is LESS THAN 1% of expenditure. Women hardest hit by COVID-19 – 52% of the population; 0.036% of the Australian Budget,” posted Gender Equity Victoria on Twitter.

“We provided extensive advice to the Scott Morrison government on the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 induced economic downturn on women’s safety and what was needed in our recovery efforts to address these. Unfortunately, however, NONE of this advice was heeded,” said Women’s Safety NSW.

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 Perhaps more shocking was a $41.3 million cut to homelessness services from July 2021.

“Tonight’s budget is devastating. In a year with huge increases in unemployment creating a surge in rental stress and homelessness, the Federal Government has chosen to slash homelessness funding. The Treasurer had a choice to make, and he has chosen homelessness for tens of thousands of Australian families. Without increases in social housing and with even less resources for homelessness services, many families will become stuck in homelessness for a long time,” said Homelessness Australia Chair, Jenny Smith in a statement.

Studies have shown that young LGBTQI people in Australia were twice as likely to be homeless than heterosexual youth.

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