Budget 2018: What’s in it for regional and agricultural Australia?

Follow below over the course of tonight and the coming days as we continue to update you on budget measures relevant to rural, regional and agricultural Australia. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources budget statements can be viewed here.

Overview

The 2018 Budget is the final budget before the next election, delivering tax cuts to lower and middle income earners as one of the larger selling points. If you earn less than $90,000 (between $37,000 – $125,000 scaled) a year, you could save up to $530 or $10.19 a week in tax. Yet you’ll only receive this money back after the 2018/19 financial year.

Bracket creep (inflation slowly pushing people into higher brackets) has been addressed with raises to tax brackets, and a seven year plan being pushed to remove the 37c tax bracket altogether. But as Jeremy Thorpe the Chief Economist at PwC suggests:

This budget is the slurpee budget. We are going to get a sugar high – an initial hit as windfall spending flows through the economy.
Hopefully we won’t get a brain freeze. Maybe in the long run it would be better if we didn’t have that sugar hit at all.

In that light, it’s important to recognise the politically motivated budget measures shining through. These put Labor in a tough position in the short (selling their own budget before the election) and long term irrespective of election outcomes.

Finally, before the nitty gritty and to keep values in context, the total budget is $488.58 billion. For example, that means the additional $10.1 million for the APVMA doesn’t even make it into the decimal places. Overall there is a $14.5 billion deficit heading into 2018/19 financial year.

For rural Australia, the focus is quite clearly on infrastructure (improved roads and railways) and health with biosecurity, trade and market access and GPS technology the other major recipients of funding windfall.

Infrastructure

An additional $24.5 billion has been added to the infrastructure spending pool (now reaching $75 billion), with promises to improve regional roads, bridges and rail lines.

$24 million has been allocated to improve access and safety at regional airstrips as well.

Regional, Rural and Remote Health

Rural and remote mental health has received significant investment across the board.

$146 million has been allocated to improve aged health care in regional areas. Doctor training has also received larger incentives, with $86 million set aside for the Stronger Rural Health Strategy.

There is an additional $95.4 million set aside to improve regional medical schools with new facilities and improved teach. Universities with campuses in rural areas will work together to support medical teaching in regional locations as part of this program. The universities and locations include:

  • UNSW – Wagga Wagga
  • University of Sydney – Dubbo
  • Charles Sturt University – Orange
  • Western Sydney University – Orange
  • Monash University – Bendigo/Mildura
  • University of Melbourne and La Trobe – Bendigo/Wodonga/Shepparton

$105 million has been set aside for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for improved access to culturally appropriate services, acknowledging the importance of remaining close to country.

Biosecurity and Trade

An additional $121.6 million for biosecurity measures behind increased market access and trade growth.

Trade and market access has received $51.3 million over the next four years to support exports to key international markets.

There’s a new levy on twenty foot equivalent containers too, with $10.02 extra charged for every container that arrives and $1 per tonne on bulk goods to help screen for exotic pests and diseases.

Agricultural Research and Development

A $224.9 million investment in the development of improved GPS technology around Australia. This measure will ensure there is 3-5 cm accuracy in regional areas with mobile phone coverage and 10cm accuracy in metropolitan areas.

A further $6.6 million has been allocated for the Established Pest Animals and Weeds Management Pipeline, an extension of the agricultural white paper.

Keeping these investments in context, R and D tax incentives for businesses have been cut, providing $2.4 billion in savings, although this is not necessarily impacting solely on regional areas.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) will receive $4.7 million to fund an analysis of seasonal labour requirements.

 

Asset Write-Off

The instant asset write-off scheme will continue for businesses earning up to $10 million, meaning farm equipment will continue to be eligible for the scheme.

Foreign Aid Expenditure

Foreign aid spending has been frozen for another four years at $4 billion (until 2022/23). However the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has indicated they have been allocated $107.5 million to “contribute to poverty reduction and improved livelihoods, through more productive and sustainable agriculture emerging from collaborative international research”. More on their budget here.

 

Forestry

The Australian National Forestry Industry Plan has received $20 million over the next four years.

APVMA

An additional $10.1 million for the APVMA to back a digital transformation, seeking to improve response and registration times.

 

Regional, Rural and Remote Education

The recommendations of the independent review into regional, rural and remote education will be supported in the budget. There will be additional support for regional students accessing tertiary education through changes to the youth allowance.

Some quirky changes

After the end of the 2018/19 financial year, all cash transactions of $10,000 will become illegal, as the government looks to crack down on undeclared income.


So that’s it (so far) for Budget 2018! We’ll continue to update the page in the days to come, as more budget details come to light. And if you can’t wait for then, you can always head on over to the budget papers themselves.

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