CANBERRA, AAP – Australia’s mental health and aged care systems will receive record funding in the federal budget with billions of dollars to be spent on the ailing sectors.
But experts have warned the packages may only begin to claw back ground after years of funding shortfalls.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will hand down his third budget on Tuesday with major spending expected across government services.
The spending will sit alongside funding for major infrastructure projects, skills training and the coronavirus health response.
“Tonight’s budget will see record commitments on essential services, disability support, mental health, aged care and women’s safety,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra.
“And tonight’s budget will lay out the Morrison government’s economic plan to secure Australia’s recovery.”
Mental health advocates have long implored the federal government to dramatically increase funding.
An extra $500 million is expected to be pumped into the mental health sector each year, most of which will be delivered through commonwealth-run primary health networks.
The funding will be aimed at delivering services to regional and disadvantaged areas with acute mental health needs, as well as those most affected by fires, floods, coronavirus restrictions and high youth unemployment.
The budget is also expected to contain up to $18 billion over four years in additional funding for aged care.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said it would be a fundamental line in the sand after a damning royal commission report called for radical changes across the troubled system.
Building a better-paid workforce and boosting training are set to be key targets of the package.
More money will also be set aside to help train the unemployed.
Mr Frydenberg is expected to announced a $1 billion extension to the JobTrainer program, which offers free or low-fee courses to young and unemployed people.
The budget could also dictate younger Australians take up the training programs or risk losing income support through programs such as Youth Allowance.
The government is also preparing to dump a dud hiring credits scheme for young people, which supported just 1100 of the 450,000 jobs it was supposed to create.
The treasurer will spend another $500 million to try to lure global businesses and talent from overseas.
The task will be difficult, given international borders remain closed but the government is determined to attract the best and brightest to drive its economic recovery.
The package includes plans to encourage the use of employee share schemes and simplify tax residency rules to attract workers and businesses to Australia.
The government will also unveil a major women’s health and financial security package, including domestic violence funding doubling to $680 million and $354 million over four years for health.
Low income earners – many of them women – will receive compulsory superannuation for the first time in their lives.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese criticised the government for lacking a plan to address record low wages growth, unemployment and underemployment.
He said the coalition was pushing the nation’s debt towards $1 trillion but lacked an economic vision.