Energy rebates, rent relief lead cost-of-living federal budget

May 17, 2024 BY

Money, money, money: Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, and Member for Ballarat, Catherine King, said her electorate's LGAs are sharing $45 million worth of roads funding. Photo: FILE

ENERGY rebates for every household, a cap on the price of prescriptions and further relief for renters have led cost-of-living relief measures in the federal budget.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ third budget also contains tax cuts of $36 a week on average for all taxpayers, while eligibility for JobSeeker payments will be extended.

In announcing a second-straight budget surplus of $9.3 billion, the treasurer warned that while “fraught and fragile” economic conditions were ahead, Australia was prepared.

“We must strive for more than muddling through or making do,” Dr Chalmers told Federal Parliament on Tuesday.

“This budget shows we are realistic about the pressures people face now, and optimistic about the future.”

Power bill relief will see every household get a $300 energy rebate from July, while eligible small businesses will get a $325 rebate.

As well, Commonwealth Rent Assistance will increase by 10 per cent for more than one million households, with the government spending $1.9 billion over the next five years.

On average, those on rent assistance will receive an extra $19 per fortnight. It’s expected the combined measures of energy relief and rent assistance will shave half a percentage point off inflation.

The cost of medicines will also be frozen, with a cap of $31.60 set for prescriptions included in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Cost caps of $7.70 will also be in place for five years for pensioners and concession holders.

Further cost-of-living measures include the stage three tax cuts, with all taxpayers to keep more of their pay from July. On average, taxpayers will save $1888 in the coming financial year, or $36 a week.

Violence against women has been a big concern for local people following the alleged murders of three women in Ballarat and surrounds within weeks.

Member for Ballarat Catherine King said those fleeing from domestic and family violence will receive $5000 in Federal support as part of a $925 million program.

“Often for women making the decision to leave a violent situation, income is a really significant issue… and can be part of the abuse itself,” she said. “The payment is immediately payable through Services Australia for women leaving violent circumstances to make sure that they have some money in their pocket to… continue to feed their children, get a bond if they need to rent.

“There’s money we’re putting into prevention, a really significant area, around how we change our culture, through Our Watch.”

The Federal Government will extend eligibility for the higher rate of JobSeeker payments to those with a partial capacity to work up to 14 hours per week.

Almost one million people on income support will have social security deeming rates frozen for the next financial year.

The budget includes $6.2 billion in new housing measures, with $1.9 billion to go towards building 40,000 new social and affordable homes. Indexation of HECS debt has changed to be based on inflation levels or the wage-price index, whichever is lower.

The government also wants to boost the country’s manufacturing capabilities under a $22.7 billion Future Made in Australia fund. The Ballarat Intermodal Freight Hub, which is set to service the Ballarat West Employment Zone, has been allocated $18.7 million.

Small businesses are also set to benefit from an extension of the $20,000 instant asset write-off, with four million companies to share in $290 million in cash flow support.

More than $800 million will also be spent on mental health support packages, and Australians will be able to get access to services for mental health help without a referral by January 2026.

Ms King said she knows the quality of local roads is a hot topic amongst members of the Ballarat electorate.

“For councils in our region, from Ballarat, Hepburn, Golden Plains to Moorabool, over the next five years, there will be $45 million coming in directly…for them to spend on our rural and local roads,” she said.

“That’s money for improvements, sealing shoulders, improved maintenance, fixing potholes…as well as really making sure we’ve got those new connections and we’re making those roads as safe as possible.”