You had to look closely, but it was there. In treasurer Scott Morrison's first post-budget delivery interview on the ABC, just as host Leigh Sales labeled the budget as "Labor-lite.", Sco-Mo visibly grimaced, just slightly. He'd lost control of the post-game narrative. A new headline had been set.
And while the adoption of many Labor-leaning values — some of which will be widely viewed as re-hashings of opposition policies — will likely dominate the discussion and analysis over the next few days, there was still plenty of measures introduced that leave large segments of Australia worse off. Here's our rundown of revenue sources and beneficiaries in the 2017 federal budget:
Winner: Bill Shorten
Oh, the sweet vindication! All that heal-nipping from the Labor leader has paid off, with the Libs bucking against their all-dominating right faction (for once) and including several policies plagiarised — or at least aimed at appeasing their opponents. Cue the told-you-so chorus line...
Loser: Bill Shorten
...or, cue the scramble for fresh ammo, as tactically the budget blunts the opposition's scare-wielding sword. And while Shorten has already labeled it a "budget for millionaires", it's likely he'll struggle to highlight the specific policy differences to the masses. More so, it'll be hard for him to block many of the measures, having publicly supported them — at least in some form — over recent years.
Loser: Young Folks
Whether studying or just finishing studies or looking for a first home, the government has got you... over a barrel. As already unveiled, university fees are set to head north, up around 7%, with the income threshold for HELP repayments (ie. when you need to start paying back all that debt) dropping to $42,000. Even the budget proposition to let first home buyers salary sacrifice extra contributions into their superannuation — $15,000 per year and up to $30,000 — seems destined to either: a) raise prices by $30,000 (see: First Home Owners Boost) or; b) not actually provide much assistance — the average house price in Australia is over $650,000, meaning buyers will likely still need to find another $35,000 for the 10% deposit — assuming of course they don't want to buy in NSW where the average price is $865,000; or, more specifically, Sydney where the average is closing in on $1.2 million. It equates to little more than a buck-passing measure, introduced to both avoid touching that fat negative gearing elephant in the room and give the government the "we did something, it's on you now" retort to those complaining about inaction.
Winner: Old Folks
Sticking with their belief that housing affordability is handcuffed to supply, Morrison introduced an idea to give a break to those hard-done-by Baby Boomers, alllowing those over the age of 65 to make a non-concessional contribution to their superannuation — up to $300,000 — when selling a home they've lived in for more than a decade. The argument here is that it'll encourage retirees to sell-up and downsize and, as above, leading to a jump in supply.
Loser: Welfare Recipients
Arguably the most morally contentious line-item in the budget is the expected revenue to be raised from changes to the current welfare system. Random drug tests and penalty percentage cuts are planned, all clearly aimed — similar to the government's robo-debt recovery system — to make the lives of the country's most vulnerable considerably more difficult.
Loser: Big Banks, or the Customers of Big Banks
The big ticket revenue source in the budget was a bit of a no-brainer. Everyone hates banks, with all that cash and security and profit margins. And while passing on some of the heavy lifting to the finance sector (an 0.06% levy) has been widely given the thumbs up, many are concerned the big four (plus Mac Bank) will simply source that lost revenue from either customers or share holders. Either way: that's us, not them. While Sco-Mo has indicated that the ACCC will be instructed to keep an eye on such scraping, few belief that they'll be able to put in any effective controls.
Good news, two decades coming — Sydney will finally get their second airport, with the government allocating funds to take on the project themselves. Next up: high speed rail.
Loser: Other Countries
Australia's foreign age budget is set to be frozen for the next two years, expected to save roughly $300 million.
Farmers will finally get the inland rail network they've been fighting for — an $8 billion project connecting Brisbane and Melbourne via central New South Wales.
Winner: Sick Folks
Lifting of the unpopular freeze on Medicare rebates should lower general out-of-pocket expenses for those visiting their local GP. Similarly, the price for many medications is set to drop, as well as a number of extra medicines have been added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Sing-a-long to that broken record: "in just four years we'll be back in surplus." And while it's a familiar goal — backed by some questionable numbers, most notably with regards to wage growth — there's obviously some need for someone to get pinched in the process. In fairness, at least it'll be spread across the board, with almost all taxpayers set to pay a touch extra, mostly via the Medicare Levy, which is set to rise by 0.5%. While that specific measure is sold as a required pick-up for the shortfall in the National Disability Scheme, it's a contentious point, with Shorten continuing to say the scheme is already funded.