CANBERRA, AAP – Finance Minister Simon Birmingham says next week’s budget will pursue a big agenda, but at the top of its list of initiatives will be keeping Australians safe and secure.
Billions of dollars have already been pledged in a range of areas in the run-up to Tuesday’s budget and Prime Minister Scott Morrison will add to that with a $1.2 billion digital economic strategy to be outlined in a speech on Thursday.
“The budget handed down next week will continue to respond to the uncertainties of the COVID situation,” Senator Birmingham told Sky News.
“We will invest in a range of of ways to keep our economy strong as well as to keep people safe.”
The strength of Australia’s economic recovery means the budget will be in a far better shape than predicted just a few months ago.
Senator Birmingham expects the nation’s welfare bill, that ballooned to $32 billion during the pandemic, will be halved over the next four years and JobSeeker recipient numbers will return to pre-crisis levels.
Mr Morrison’s strategy to set up Australia to be a leading digital economy by 2030 will involve investment in emerging technologies, building digital skills, encouraging business investment and enhancing government service delivery.
“Every business in Australia is now a digital business,” Mr Morrison says.
“We must keep our foot on the digital accelerator to secure our economic recovery from COVID-19.”
The strategy includes $100 million for digital skills including a new $11 million pilot program for work-based digital cadetships, and scholarships for emerging technology graduates.
A tax offset of 30 per cent will support businesses seeking a slice of the $250 billion global game development market, and there will be changes to the way Australian businesses can claim depreciation of intangible assets like intellectual property and in-house software.
There will also be funding for a National Artificial Intelligence Centre led by CSIRO Data 61 and enhancements to the myGov and My Health Record systems.
As well, $111 million will be invested in accelerating the rollout of the consumer data right in banking, energy and telecommunications.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said greater digital adoption will improve Australia’s competitiveness and lift productivity, driving job creation and higher wages.
But in a speech on Thursday, Opposition Leader Anthony Albansese will accuse the prime minister of “deliberately and callously” choosing not to clean up the aged care system earlier.
In a speech to the McKell Institute in Sydney, Mr Albanese will say the royal commission into aged care exposed a “shame on our nation”.
“Scott Morrison could have acted earlier,” he says.
The aged care system needed serious investment, including better nutrition for residents, improved pay, training and conditions for staff, minimum staffing levels, a crackdown on unscrupulous providers and a ratings system.
“A Labor government under my leadership will rebuild our broken aged care sector – tackling the workforce challenges will be front and centre,” he says.