The 2023-24 Budget has been released this week, with Treasurer Jim Chalmers announcing millions for biosecurity, climate-smart agriculture and disaster resilience, but cutting almost $900 million in water infrastructure.
The 2023/24 budget also increased the instant tax write-off for small businesses, gave biosecurity a $1 billion boost and increased welfare payments.
Biosecurity Front Of Mind In 23-24 Budget
The Albanese Government has announced a $1 billion investment in biosecurity, dubbing it the Sustainable Biosecurity Funding model.
The Passenger Movement Charge will increase by $10 from mid-next year and will apply to all passengers departing Australia.
International deliveries of “low value cargo” – which are items valued at $1000 or less – will also be hit with a new biosecurity levy, which is expected to be around 40 cents per item. The new measure is expected to reap $81.3m over three years.
The biosecurity measures give with one hand but take with the other for farmers, where a biosecurity protection levy on Australian producers of agricultural, forestry and fishery products will be implemented from 1 July 2024. The levy will be “set at a rate equivalent to 10 per cent of the 2020–21 industry‑led agricultural levies”.
Welfare Increase To Help Rural & Regional Families
About 400,000 regional and rural residents will benefit from the budget’s cost-of-living relief, which includes raising welfare payments by $40 a fortnight, increasing rent assistance by 15 per cent and raising the cut-off age for payments for children of single parents from eight to 14.
Swings & Roundabouts For Water
Suspicions that Labor would make significant cuts to the water infrastructure budget have been realised, with Dungowan Dam ($595m), Emu Swamp Dam ($162.5m), the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme ($39.7m), the Fingal Irrigation Scheme ($35m) all being scrapped. The government deferred a decision on the $19m Wyangala Dam wall raising and the Hughenden Irrigation Scheme project, until after the planning work is completed.
About $200m of the funding will be reallocated to fund three water infrastructure projects; Northern Midlands Irrigation Scheme ($109m), Sassafras-Wesley Vale Irrigation Scheme ($62.1m) and the Quality Water for Wannon project ($26.1m).
However, Labor will deliver on an election commitment to incorporate the latest climate science into the management of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Announcing nearly $150m to begin the first statutory review of the plan, with updated science to “future proof” the plan against the impacts of climate change.
They also plan to make the water market more transparent. Investing $32.7 million, which includes a public website that publishes live water market updates.
Instant Write-Offs Increase
Starting July 1st, equipment eligible for instant tax write-offs or temporary full expensing must cost $20,000 or less. This replaces the previous arrangement of unlimited pricing introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is, however, a massive increase on the previous instant-tax write-off cap of $1,000.
While the $20,000 cap may not have been as high as some were hoping, farmers will also have access to a second 20 per cent instant asset depreciation option if their purchase qualifies as an energy efficiency asset investment (worth less than $20,000).
Key agriculture, forestry and fisheries measures in the Budget include:
- $145.2 million upgrade to digital biosecurity services through a Simplified Targeting and Enhanced Processing System. This is a program of work to bring our cargo management systems into the modern digital age, reducing costs and delays for industry and government. This will free up biosecurity workers for other jobs and reduce congestion at the border.
- $40.6 million to continue the Indigenous Ranger Biosecurity Program in Northern Australia – a key part of frontline biosecurity monitoring, detection and response in our north.
- $302.1 million over five years to support climate-smart agriculture through the Natural Heritage Trust – helping farmers transition to a low emissions future and strengthen agricultural sustainability.
- $38.3 million for ABARES to improve the collection, analysis and sharing of data on the impact of climate change and low emission technology on agriculture, to assist policy making and farmers’ decision making.
- $127 million to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry – a one-off payment in 2022-23 to ensure the viability of the Department.
- $5 million to develop a renewed Australian Animal Welfare Strategy – to deliver on the Government’s election commitment to update and enhance a national approach to animal welfare.
- $18m will be used to increase the integrity of the Australian carbon credit market.
- An additional $166.7m will go towards the Pacific Australian Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.
- National Soil Action Plan will receive a $20m boost.
Labor will continue forging ahead with its decision to phase out the live sheep exports, with $5.6m to establish an independent panel to oversee the assessment and consultation process.