The Commonwealth government’s 2023-24 budget reveals a progressive government seeking to help lower paid workers and those struggling to pay bills, support public health care, and pursue investments towards a net zero economy. But it is very much a first step, and leaves much more work to be done to repair past harms done to workers, low-income Australians, public services and infrastructure, and the environment.
This briefing reviews the main features of the budget from the perspective of workers and labour markets. Some of its measures are very positive, such as fiscal support for higher wages for aged care workers, increased JobKeeper benefits, and enhanced Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
Contrary to concerns that a big-spending budget would exacerbate inflation, this budget will have little impact on overall aggregate demand. In fact, it will pro-actively reduce inflation through its new $500 energy relief plan. Contrary to conservative economists who claim this budget will fuel inflation, in reality the forecasts confirm historically slow growth in public demand in both 2022-23 and 2023-24.
Despite these positive measures, the budget also contains disappointing aspects. Most importantly, the Stage 3 tax cuts remain on schedule. And while they are only set to begin in 2024-25, they hang over these budget figures like a dark spectre.
The budget papers also confirm the economy is far from buoyant. The next 18 months are expected to see economic growth well-below average. Households are reacting to three years of falling real wages, and eleven painful increases in interest rates, by severely constraining consumer spending. Slowing job creation and declining real wages are taking their toll on overall economic growth, highlighting again that the key to a strong economy is strong employment and wage growth.
Please read our research team’s full review of this historic budget.