ANU experts react to the 2017/18 federal budget

10 May 2017

A number of ANU experts have reacted following Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison unveiling the second Turnbull Government budget.
 

DEFENCE/FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Associate Professor Stephan Frühling, ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre

"In relation to Defence, this budget contains few surprises. The Turnbull government is sticking closely to the 10 year spending path it laid out in the 2016 Defence White Paper, which will see Defence expenditure rise to 2 per cent of GDP in 2020-21. Considering that the previous two White Papers' budget assumptions were hardly worth the paper they were written on, that is good news.  

"Two major defence programs, the Future Submarine and Future Frigate, will receive significant funding for design activities for the first time. However, a stable funding environment is only a necessary, not sufficient condition to successfully deliver an ambitious Defence acquisition program.  

"Having provided Defence the funding, Cabinet will have to now provide first and second pass approval to dozens of programs this financial year."


IMMIGRATION

Henry Sherrell, Research Officer, ANU Development Policy Centre

"The Turnbull government has removed any reference to a Migration Program target. In previous years, a planning level was established, such as 190,000 permanent visas. This has been replaced with a reference to a 'ceiling'.
 
"Some $410 million is being raised over four years via the introduction of visa fee indexation. This is a new revenue measure designed to cover large system changes within the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

"Another $1.21 billion is being raised over four years by charging employers additional fees to sponsor migrants. This revenue will help fund a new training fund, established by the Department of Education. The costs - between $1,200 and $3,000 depending on the size of business and type of sponsorship - will likely have a small negative effect on the total number of new skilled migrants coming to Australia. However, this is hard to quantify."


SCIENCE AND INNOVATION

Professor Lisa Kewley, Director of the ARC Centre for Excellence in All-Sky Astrophysics in 3D
"The Federal Budget allocation for a 10-year strategic partnership with the European Southern Observatory ensures that Australian astronomers will remain at the forefront of astronomical research for the next decade.   

"More generally, the new investment in advanced manufacturing and research infrastructure, including the development of new innovation labs and funding to continue the entrepreneurs program will help drive innovation and transfer of new technology to other fields.  

"A larger future workforce in STEM is critically needed in Australia.  I am very pleased to see the budget increases funding for schools and for girls in STEM, which will help satisfy this need."

 

Dr Gaétan Burgio, Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease, The John Curtin School of Medical Research

"The federal budget 2017 for Science, Technology and Innovation sends a mixed message to the research community. On a positive note, the federal government is committed to heavily invest in infrastructures, collaborative research or medical research such as $100 million for the infrastructure Research fund, $20 million into the Cooperative Research Centers (CRCs) or $66 million into the Medical Research Future Funds (MRFF).

"However, we see a decline in investment into research agencies such as the NHMRC, the ARC or the CSIRO, which are absolutely essential to fuel Research and Innovation.

"Together, this indicates the budget 2017 is orientated toward Health translational outcomes, research commercialisation or infrastructures, enables the participation of Australia into important international research programs but fails to further support bleu-sky research, which is key to the development of new ideas that will translate in the future into commercial and better health outcomes."       


ENERGY/CLIMATE CHANGE

Dr Paul J Burke, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics, Crawford School of Public Policy

"The budget speech did not mention climate change, with climate policy seemingly on hold until the completion of a review later this year. No additional funds were injected into the highly-criticised Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). The budget would be in a better position if Australia had retained its former carbon pricing arrangement."

 

Associate Professor Matthew Hole, Research School of Physics & Engineering

"The Australian government continues to poorly recognise the contribution of the University sector to energy research, and to research in general. This places at risk Australia engagement in international consortia attempting to find clean energy solutions for the planet, such as the ITER fusion energy project."  

 

POLITICS

Dr Andrew Hughes, Research School of Management

"This budget was all about pressure - taking it off the Government and putting it on Labor.

"The scary thing really is that Malcolm Turnbull is only getting started. This is his first Budget with his stamp on it, and with perhaps two to go until the next election he has shown himself the master of the Long Game.

"This Budget also places pressure on the cross benchers in the Senate - if most of these measures are supported by Labor then they start to lose relevance and air time very quickly.

"Budget 2017 single handedly turns the political blowtorch and relevance on the two  Opposition Leaders Malcolm Turnbull has been fighting - over to you now lads.

"As noted in Games of Thrones - once you've accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you - and so it is with Budget 2017."

 

Professor John Hewson, Chair of the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU

"Clever politics - designed to neutralise Labor - but risky economics. Government focus is now on next week's Newspoll. Budget surplus is 'assumed' - unlikely to be delivered."

 

HEALTH

Professor Hal Kendig, Centre for Research on Ageing Health & Wellbeing

"The proposal to encourage older people to down size their housing through new rules on voluntary super contributions is modest but promising. A large home freed up and a move to a smaller infill house nearby benefits overall housing supply and urban consolidation as well as appropriate housing for older people.  

"But the financial encouragement applies only to owners with resources for super.  It does not address the more significant barriers in terms of stamp duty and local land use planning nor the needs of the many pensioners or private tenants."

 

Professor Tom Faunce, ANU College of Law & Medical School

"The changes do not target the most expensive items in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme- new patented drugs.

"The Abbott government abolished the Pharmaceutical Benefits Pricing Authority which was tasked with negotiating lower prices on these new innovative drugs if they failed the science-based PBAC assessment. The PBPA should be restored."