Response to 2024 Budget

Overall the Australian Government’s 2024 Budget is one that lacks vision and a clear path forward in the three policy areas which the Edmund Rice Centre focuses on: First Nations, Refugees and People Seeking Asylum, and Pacific climate justice.  More broadly, the Budget fails to address fundamental, long-term challenges facing everyday Australians, including the housing crisis and the underfunding of key services such as our public education system.

First Nations

The redirection of $20 million from support for a Voice to Parliament to other policy priorities is excused as being in line with the result of the recent Referendum. However, this decision is not in line with the bi-partisan commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its priorities, nor is it in line with Australia's international commitments as a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. 

The Budget seems to be a back-to-the future budget with regards to advancing Australia’s relationship and engagement with its First peoples. Where is the Australian Government’s commitment to Truth-telling and Treaty? The Referendum No vote occurred in response to the concept of a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution, not to the other fundamental pillars of the Uluru Statement from the Heart- Truth and Treaty.

Refugees and People Seeking Asylum

Whilst we welcome the Budget’s increased investment in settlement services, the Forward Estimates forecast a reduction of government support to migrant and refugee settlement services.  This seems to be a retrograde approach given the current state of the world. Australia’s increased focus on Pacific migration through initiatives like the Pacific Economic Visa needs investment and support at least in its first years of implementation. Where are the billions spent propping up the so-called ‘Pacific Solution’ being reallocated to? For a country requiring investment in social cohesion the government could take the opportunity to invest substantially in programs that support this aim within our metropolitan, regional and remote communities.

Pacific Climate Justice

Whilst the Budget includes a significant investment towards renewable energy, it also continues to support billions of dollars of investment towards fossil fuel subsidies. This continued business-as-usual approach is out of step with the expectations of Pacific nations and is entirely incompatible with what is required to address the climate crisis.

The Foreign Affairs Budget includes $144.4 million in 2024-2025 towards climate change and the environment but it is unclear how this will be spent, although it is likely to include a contribution of $15 million to the Pacific Resilience Facility. Nevertheless, this allocation is quite literally “a drop in the ocean” in terms of the climate finance needed across the Pacific for mitigation and adaptation. We also note that there is no allocation of any monies towards the new Loss and Damage Fund, one which the Pacific fought hard to establish over a period of 30 years and which finally came into force last year.

Other Key Issues

Despite the growing housing crisis facing Australia, the Budget makes no attempt to address the long-term factors, such as capital gains tax and negative gearing, that have contributed to this situation.

Similarly, despite a chronically underfunded public education system, the Budget does not make commitments sufficient to address the systemic issues at hand.

Housing and education are fundamental pillars of our society and inequitable outcomes in these areas are affecting the very fabric of our communities, leading to entrenched disadvantage and a growing wealth divide.  This is likely to worsen as climate impacts become more intense and more frequent, disproportionally affecting the most vulnerable and resource-poor members of our communities.

As we approach the next Federal elections, we urge all political parties to actively engage in addressing these fundamental aspects of our democracy and to ensure that any reforms are fair, equitable and just for the current and future generation of Australians.

Donate Sign up Newsroom