The 2023 Federal Budget didn’t make any large commitment for rural communities in Victoria or across the country. There are some measures that will be of interest and value for rural communities specifically, which are outlined below.
There are opportunities for some infrastructure funding and disaster response and preparedness that councils may wish to explore.
Health was a significant feature of the budget, while the broad changes will benefit rural Victoria, there were a few elements that specifically addressed rural and regional areas.
$3.5 billion over 5 years from 2022–23 to address the decline in general practitioners’ bulk billing of patients on low incomes, and children. This funding will triple the bulk billing incentive benefits for consultations for Commonwealth concession card holders and patients aged under 16 years of age.
Within the broad package of health initiatives, some specifically reference rural and remote locations:
$79.5 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $19.9 million ongoing) to double the Regional Pharmacy Maintenance Allowance to ensure the ongoing viability of pharmacies due to reduced dispensing income
A few housing initiatives, while not specifically focused on rural, they are important in the context of the policy and advocacy work regarding housing.
Clean energy was again a feature of the budget. Further detail in the design of the Power the Regions Fund was released. Potential opportunities for rural areas.
Powering the Regions Fund – final design
The Government will allocate $1.3 billion over 5 years from 2022–23 from $1.9 billion provided in the 2022–23 October Budget to support the decarbonisation of existing industries, develop new clean energy industries and support sovereign manufacturing capacity essential to the energy transition including:
Funding of $89.0 million has also been provided through the Powering the Regions Fund to support energy transition investments important to regional Australia, including the 2023–24 Budget measures titled Capacity Investment Scheme and Ensuring the Supply of Reliable, Secure and Affordable Energy.
The Powering the Regions Fund will continue to support Government purchase of Australian Carbon Credit Units.
This measure builds on the 2022–23 October Budget measures titled Establishing Offshore Renewables in Australia and Powering Australia – establishing the Powering the Regions Fund.
This was a feature in the October budget and much of this was a recommitment to programs already funded or announced.
Urgent Health Supports for Flood-affected Communities
The Government will provide $9.8 million in 2022–23 to provide urgent mental health and mosquito-borne disease supports to communities impacted by flooding in Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales, including First Nations communities.
The cost of this measure will be met from within the existing resourcing of the Department of Health and Aged Care.
The Government will provide funding to improve Australia’s resilience to natural disasters and support recovery of impacted communities including:
The Government will also provide $200 million in 2023–24 for disaster resilience initiatives through the Disaster Ready Fund to address a broad range of natural hazards, infrastructure needs, and for systemic risk reduction projects. Funding for this element has already been provided for by the Government.
The support outlined in this measure is in addition to previous assistance of $1.4 billion committed by the Commonwealth Government in response to multiple disaster events under Category C and D of the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.
The cost of this assistance will be met from funding previously included in the Contingency Reserve. This measure builds on the 2022–23 October Budget measure titled Disaster Support
The Government will provide $1.8 billion over 10 years from 2023–24 for infrastructure priorities to support productivity and jobs. Funding includes:
$22.3 million over 6 years from 2023–24 for phase 3 of the Strategic Local Government Asset Assessment Project to continue assessments of local government road assets, which will support the development of a national automated road access system for heavy vehicles
Early Childhood Education and Care Workforce
The Government will provide $72.4 million over 5 years from 2022–23 to support the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) sector to build and retain the ECEC workforce. Funding includes:
The cost of this measure will be met from savings identified in the 2023–24 Budget measures titled Child Care Subsidy Reform – additional integrity and Education – reprioritisation
Arts and Culture
As part of a larger set of arts and cultural measure there were some specifically targeted at regional and remote communities.
Revive – National Cultural Policy and Location Incentive
$11.8 million over 4 years from 2023–24 to pilot long-term loans of National Gallery of Australia works to regional and suburban cultural institutions across Australia
$8.5 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $2.2 million per year ongoing) to increase funding for the Regional Arts Fund to support cultural development in regional and remote communities
RCV priority on housing there were several housing measures in the budget. While not specifically targeted into rural communities. They provide further clarity on the government approach to housing affordability and the types of programs and initiatives they may support.
Housing (Build-To-Rent Developments) – accelerating tax deductions and reducing managed investment trust withholding tax rate.
For eligible new build-to-rent projects where construction commences after 7:30 PM (AEST) on 9 May 2023 (Budget night), the Government will:
This measure will encourage investment and construction in the build-to-rent sector, expanding Australia’s housing supply.
This measure will apply to build-to-rent projects consisting of 50 or more apartments or dwellings made available for rent to the general public. The dwellings must be retained under single ownership for at least 10 years before being able to be sold and landlords must offer a lease term of at least 3 years for each dwelling.
The reduced managed investment trust withholding tax rate for residential build-to-rent will apply from 1 July 2024. Consultation will be undertaken on implementation details, including any minimum proportion of dwellings being offered as affordable tenancies and the length of time dwellings must be retained under single ownership.
This measure is estimated to decrease receipts by $30.0 million and increase payments by $4.3 million over the 5 years from 2022–23.
Increasing the Supply of Social and Affordable Housing and Making it Easier to Buy a Home
The Government will introduce a number of housing measures to increase support for social and affordable housing across the country and improve access for home buyers, including:
The Government will also provide $2.7 million in 2023–24 to the Treasury to support delivery of priority housing measures. The Government is also enabling up to 3 additional members to be appointed to the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council to provide a greater breadth of policy expertise.
This measure expands on the 2022–23 October Budget measure titled Safer and More Affordable Housing