Budget 2023-24: Supporting a strong, secure and sustainable regional Australia
From Townsville to Tennant Creek, Broome to Bendigo and Nhulunbuy to Newcastle – the Albanese Government is investing in people who call regional Australia home.
This begins with a new strategic approach to delivering regional investment. Developing the Regional Investment Framework - outlined in the 2023-24 Budget - puts regions and the people who live in them, at the heart of decision making.
The Framework will establish a new regional development forum for Australian Government agencies, with regular engagement to better inform Commonwealth decisions. All regional investments must meet standards of merit and integrity, crucial to maintaining trust and confidence in government.
The Framework identifies four key priority areas to support regional development – investing in services, people, places and industry.
The 2023-24 Budget, invests heavily in these four priority areas.
Investing in Services
The 2023-24 Budget works to strengthen Medicare, relieve pressure on hospital systems, and ease the cost of living pressures for Australians, ensuring access to healthcare no matter your postcode or bank balance.
An historic investment of $3.5 billion will triple the Bulk Billing incentive - the largest increase in the 40-year history of Medicare – an immediate injection to benefit communities in regional, rural and remote Australia.
We’ll make common medicines cheaper. Australians in regional Australia will need half as many trips to the GP and pharmacist just to fill a repeat script for more than 300 Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines used to treat chronic conditions, saving Australians up to $180 a year for every eligible medicine they buy.
Access to healthcare is a priority for regional Australia. We are also investing:
- $358.5 million for Medicare Urgent Care Clinics to support delivery of an additional 8 clinics, bringing the total commitment to 58 clinics around Australia, including Broome and Rockhampton. Clinics will be operating this year, open for longer hours and with no out-of-pocket costs.
- We’re also expanding After Hours Primary Care. And more Australians in regional and rural locations will benefit from longer telehealth consultations.
- We’ll reinvest savings into strengthening community pharmacies, including by doubling the rural maintenance allowance. We want our pharmacists to play a larger, more central role in their communities, with funding to provide many more vaccinations, deliver opioid dependency treatments and medication reviews in Aged Care.
- And commit $238.5 million to address inequities in cancer outcomes for First Nations people.
For regional families, the Government is also addressing critical shortages in Child Care and Teaching, to support and build a quality workforce.
- $72.4 million to support Early Childhood Education and Care professional development.
- A further $9.3 million to the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan, with initiatives to increase the number of people choosing to become teachers, and ensure we keep existing teachers.
We will also deliver $40.4 million in additional funding for schools in Central Australia to increase school enrolment, student engagement and improve learning outcomes.
Plus, we will invest further in the Indigenous Boarding Providers grants program, supporting dozens of providers who host some 2,300 First Nations students from remote areas.
The Albanese Government continues work to ensure Regional Australians are connected, informed and safe. We are:
- Creating a new National Messaging System to help protect people and property – with targeted, real-time information to mobile phones during an emergency.
- Continuing delivery of free-to-air satellite television services to regional and remote Australia, including First Nations communities.
Investing in People
The 2023-24 Budget delivers impactful cost-of-living relief to regional Australians.
- Jobseeker and related working age payments will be increased by $40 and the Government will reduce the eligibility age for the higher JobSeeker rate for single people on the payment for 9 continuous months or more and who are 60 or over to 55 years or over.
- The Single Parenting Payment, will be expanded to cover principal carers with a youngest child under 14 years of age, benefiting around 22,000 people in regional and remote Australia.
- In addition, maximum rates of Commonwealth Rent Assistance will be increased by 15 per cent, benefiting around 300,000 people in Australia's regions.
We are looking after our Aged Care Workforce, with a 15 per cent payrise – a record $11.3bn investment which will impact the some 4,000 aged care services taking care of our older Australians in rural, remote and regional Australia.
This Budget extends our commitment to our National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children - with a $589.3 million package, which includes a focus on First Nations women and children.
And we’re redesigning the Skills for Education and Employment program, to provide more pathways for Australians who want to access training, gain secure employment and career progression.
On top of our commitment to deliver 480,000 Fee-Free TAFE and vocational education places, we are:
- Committing $8.6 million over four years to design and implement the Australian Skills Guarantee, which will create opportunities for apprentices, trainees, paid cadets – and for women to work on major Government projects in regional Australia.
- Extending the Foundation Skills for Your Future Remote Community Pilots program, which currently supports people in 11 remote communities to better language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy skills.
Investing in Places
The Albanese Government is making it easier for people to secure a safe and affordable home, no matter where they live.
We are expanding the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee from July 1, to any two eligible borrowers, such as friends and siblings, beyond married or de facto couples, and making it available to non-first home buyers if they haven’t owned a property in Australia in the last 10 years.
And we’re supporting more social and affordable housing by increasing the guaranteed liabilities of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) by $2 billion, to support more financing through the Australian Housing Bond Aggregator.
The Albanese Government is also committing $200 million, to deliver real change for Australians experiencing disadvantage – with a range of initiatives and a new targeted framework.
This Budget is also investing in safer communities with:
- Up to $200 million per year to support disaster risk reduction projects in regional Australia, under the Disaster Ready Fund.
- $236 million over 10 years to improve flood forecasting and warnings.
- $231.8 million invested in Services Australia to establish a cost-effective emergency response capacity – ensuring the delivery of high-quality government services and payments, when customers need them the most.
We remain focused on keeping communities well connected.
The Albanese Government is committed to our 10-year, $120bn Infrastructure Pipeline. But we will clean up an unsustainable backlog we inherited with an independent review, to ensure we have a nation-building investment pipeline – with projects that provide regional connectivity, liveability and safety.
Other initiatives include:
- Funding of up to $95 million a year for the Bridges Renewal Program.
- $500 million for the Roads to Recovery Program.
- 33 Remote Roads Upgrade Pilot Program projects to be delivered in 2023 and 2024.
- And, $43.6 million to deliver the National Road Safety Action Grants Program over 3 years, building on the Government’s commitment to improve road safety for all Australians.
The Budget also builds on the $250 million landmark plan for A Better, Safer Future for Central Australia, delivering the next phase of initiatives including in infrastructure, health, education and engagement for ‘at risk’ First Nations Youth.
We are also committed to lock in Commonwealth funding contribution to support the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games – including $935 million over 10 years towards 16 new or upgraded Games venues. This will benefit regional location including Barlow Park in Cairns and the Toowoomba Sports Ground.
And we continue to invest in the environment and culture, which make our regions unique.
This Budget invests $355.1 million over four years to end the neglect of Commonwealth National Parks, funding which will create local jobs. And $439.2 million over five years to support programs that repair World Heritage properties, restore Ramsar wetlands and conserve threatened species and ecosystems.
Plus, dedicated funding of $286 million under our landmark National Cultural Policy: Revive. This includes targeted initiatives in regional arts, including protecting First Nations knowledge and cultural expressions.
Investing in Industry and Local Economies
The Government is making future-focused investments, recognising the significant contribution Australia’s regions makes to securing a productive and sustainable future for the nation.
This budget allocates over $1.4 billion through the Powering the Regions Fund to support industrial decarbonisation and develop new clean energy industries in the regions, through three new streams of grants.
Building on this work, we will legislate a national Net Zero Authority to ensure the workers, industries and communities that have powered Australia for generations, can seize the opportunities of Australia’s net zero transformation.
Regional Australia will also benefit from new opportunities in the emerging hydrogen sector, and the Government has allocated $2bn to establish Hydrogen Headstart – to help underwrite large-scale renewable hydrogen projects through competitive hydrogen production contracts.
We are committed to ensuring Australia is a country that makes things, including through the Government’s $15bn National Reconstruction Fund, which will transform Australia’s industry and economy, creating secure, well-paid jobs in regional areas – with investments in seven priority areas, including value-add in resources, value-add resources, value-add in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, transport and renewables and low emissions technology.
The Albanese Government continues its support of our strategically significant critical minerals projects, establishing the Critical Minerals International Partnerships Program and extending funding for the Critical Minerals office, to created continued economic opportunity for regional Australia.
And we are delivering on an election commitment to Australia’s agriculture sector - investing $1bn over four years, to strengthen the national biosecurity system.
We’ll create a new, sustainable and accountable funding model that will help minimise disruption and economic loss through outbreaks, support better yields through lower damage to produce and provide new access to markets, through greater biosecurity assurance and reputation.
The Budget also commits:
- $40.6 million over four years to continue the Indigenous Rangers Biosecurity Program, supporting a strengthened biosecurity system in Northern Australia.
- $302.1 million over five years through the National Heritage Trust to reduce the agriculture sector’s emissions, build climate resilience, enhance market access and improve environmental outcomes.
We are also growing and expanding the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme by strengthening domestic operations and enhancing oversight, without compromising safeguards that ensure vulnerable workers are adequately protected.