Experts respond to the 2020-21 Federal Budget

Experts respond to the 2020-21 Federal Budget

It’s the most significant federal budget in decades, aimed at restarting the economy, but experts say it’s built on optimistic assumptions and lost opportunities.

Mother and kids

Women’s workforce participation

The government’s claims it wants to restore women’s participation to record high levels have not been matched in this budget, according to Economics Lecturer and Research Fellow at Harvard University, Dr Leonora Risse.

“Despite the pandemic hitting female-dominated industries hardest and fastest, the budget allocated a mere $240.4 million over four years to initiatives to support women's job opportunities,” she notes. 

“This compares to $14 billion for infrastructure”, she says, adding “more money has been allocated to the waste and recycling industry than to women's work initiatives.” 

With migration numbers drying up, Risse says "the government really needs to step up to boost women's workforce participation to return, not just to pre-pandemic levels, but higher still." 

Affordable childcare is critical to this but a missed opportunity in the budget.

“There are thousands of women who already have the skills and want to work more hours, but childcare costs make it too prohibitive,” she explains.

“Reforming childcare affordability is a straightforward ticket to the economy's recovery.” 

The economy and social services

Emeritus Professor and Economist David Hayward says the budget failed to put significant investment into the care economy including aged care, child care, disability, family violence and social housing.

“We could have built an integrated new economic powerhouse that is the envy of the world,” he notes.

“But the Coalition chose to bet the chocolates on a coronavirus-stalled private economy instead, using optimistic assumptions as the foundation for its tax cuts and write-offs.  

“If those optimistic assumptions don’t come to fruition, by this time next year we may have almost nothing to show for all that largesse,” he warns.

City cyclists

Transport, infrastructure and planning

Liveability and livelihoods should be the budget focal point with an acute focus on sustainability, according to the Director of the Centre for Urban Research Professor Jago Dodson.  

Gone is the pressure of reacting to rapid population growth, which means delaying growth-driven road schemes like the North East Link or the Westgate Tunnel.

“Instead the funding emphasis should be on the huge deficits in local infrastructure, such as a metropolitan network of pedestrian paths and bike lanes connecting to local employment and services, including green open space,” he says.

Rather than spending a billion dollars on a few large megaprojects at least as much stimulus and transformation can be achieved through local interventions spread more broadly across our cities.

“Investment should also focus on built environment transformation, to a circular economy in waste, water and energy,” he adds.

Arts and cultural sector 

The budget provides some opportunities for artists according to Senior Lecturer in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing and the Behavioural Business Lab, Dr Meg Elkins.

She points to the $4 billion JobMaker Hiring Credit as offering the potential for artists to team up with the Creative Industry Sectors to restart their careers.

At the same time, Elkins says many artists have fallen through the cracks for job support schemes due to the transient nature of work in the sector.

They face potentially career ending futures as artists.

“Combined with fee rises in creative arts courses and major cuts to creative sector courses at universities, these impacts will devastate the next generation of artists,” she says


Story: Diana Robertson

07 October 2020


07 October 2020


  • Society
  • Government & Politics

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