Budget 2024: “[Too much] economic security in a world of churn and change?” Plus everyone gets 300 bucks

Illustrations by Jasmin Small.

Jim Chalmers’ and the 2024 budget’s key message is “responsible economic management.” 

The 2024-2025 budget details 5 focuses — cost of living relief, building more homes, investing in a ‘future made in Australia,’ strengthening the care economy and advancing equality.  

This year the underlying cash balance is at a surplus of $9.3 billion — and is the “first time we’ve seen back-to-back surplus in nearly two decades.” The labor government is attempting to prevent ongoing losses by being responsible, however it remains to be seen whether it’s enough to target the cost of living crisis. 


Labor will spend $1.1 billion over five years from 2023–2024 to provide the first stage of reforms according to the Australian Universities Accord Final Report. These reforms include establishing a new Commonwealth Prac Payment, expanding access to FEE-Free Uni ready courses, and limiting indexation to HELP loans. On top of this, the budget proposes establishing a National Students Ombudsman, introducing a National Higher Education Code to prevent and respond to gender based violence and developing and implementing regulations to establish a new supply of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) among others.

The government will invest $427.4 million over four years to fund paid placements of $319.5 per week for students undertaking mandatory placements as parts of nursing, teaching, or social work studies. While this is in line with the University Accords recommendations to “reduce financial hardship and placement poverty” in unpaid mandatory placements, placement poverty remains a risk for medical students, who are not included in the program.

$350 million will be invested to introduce Fee-Free Uniready Courses in lines with the recommendations of the accords. In particular, $88 million will fund 20,000 Fee-Free TAFE and VET places in courses relevant to construction. According to the Accords, Fee-Free participatory courses are “one of the most important”, for “under-represented groups.”

As revealed prior to the budget release, Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) will be indexed to the lower of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Wage Price Index (WPI). However, according to the forecasts in the budget itself, WPI is predicted to be higher than the CPI for the next four years. This means that despite the changes to HELP debts indexations, debts will continue to be indexed to inflation. 

However, the change was backdated to include 2023’s indexation, removing $3 billion worth of student debts, which was triggered by last year’s record-high 7.1 percent indexation.

The budget commits $19 million over two years and $18.7 million over four years to establish the National Student Ombudsman and the National Higher Education Code to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence respectively. For the former, the funding for the Ombudsman remains indeterminate, with the government set to explore arrangements for cost recovery from 2026. Both the Ombudsman and the Code were recommended by the Accords to address gender-based violence in higher education that would “improve the overall student experience.”

$2.6 million in 2024-25 will go towards implementing changes to the Department of Education’s Provider Registration and International Student Management System. These would likely include a cap on the number of international students enrolled.  If this cap was exceeded, providers would be required to build Purpose Built Student Accommodations (PBSA) directed at the increase in international students.

In addition, the government is in consultation for the establishment of an Australian Tertiary Education Commission and a needs-based funding system. The latter, which would be implemented in early 2026, will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, lower-socioeconomic students, students with disabilities and students from remote or regional background. The Department of Education spoke to Woroni.  While no commitments have been made for this system, the government plans to consult the target groups in its development of the system and possible changes to student contributions under this system.

The budget also aligned with the Universities Accord’s recommendation for a minimum 40 percent of Student Services and Amenities Fees (SSAF) to be allocated to student-led organisations in higher education.

The government will provide $101.8 million over seven years to continue the delivery of conventionally-armed, nuclear power submarines. From this commitment, $34.7 million will fund the apprenticeship program, Shipbuilding Employment Pathways initiative, and $16.3 million over the next six years will fund 3000 scholarships in undergraduate courses in science, technology, engineering, mathematics relevant to nuclear-powered submarines. 

Cost of living

The budget commits to relief from energy costs via a new energy bill, intending to directly ease cost-of-living pressures and extend to all households. This bill, costing a total of $3.5 billion, will deliver rebates of $300 to every house paying energy bills, and $325 to small businesses across Australia. Treasurer Jim Chalmers explained, working in coordination with states and energy retailers, and coming into action from the 1st of July 2024, this will look like reductions of $75 “directly rebated off your bill” for quarterly bills over the next financial year. Accordingly, this subsidy is expected to reduce headline inflation by around half a percentage point in 2024–25. 

The government has also recognised that the “cost of food and groceries is putting many family budgets under significant pressure.” In light of this, a review of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct to ensure Australians are paying a fair price for their groceries will be underway. 

In spite of their election promise, the Albanese government recently legislated changes to the Morrison government’s stage 3 tax cuts. The budget states that “legislated tax cuts for all 13.6 million Australian taxpayers [will come into effect] from 1 July 2024 to provide cost-of-living relief, return bracket creep and boost labor supply.” This means all Australian taxpayers who earn more than $18,200 (that is, more than the tax-free threshold) will get a tax cut. These cuts are intended to target lower- and middle-income taxpayers in particular.


With a noticeably rising proportion of the nation’s income going towards rent, the budget did include a 10% increase on all maximum rates of Commonwealth Rent Assistance Payments, costing the government $1.9 billion over the next five years. The increases will take effect from 20 September 2024, and add to the 15% increase from last year’s budget.  

On campus, Chalmers says the budget includes measures to make sure “universities are doing their bit”, by building student accommodation, in proportion to increases in international student enrollments over the cap.

Labor’s greatest emphasis was placed on long term housing infrastructure, development, and the practicalities of construction, with the government aiming to deliver 1.2 million new homes over the next five years.


In advance of the budget, the Universities Accord recommended increasing the Parental Free Income Area from Youth Allowance from $58,108 to $68,857 for those studying, and expanding income support eligibility to students who study part-time (between 50% and 74% of a full study load). The budget did not respond to this recommendation, and no current changes have been made to Youth Allowance or other welfare payments.


This budget will provide $888.1 million over 8 years (and $139.8 million per year ongoing) to respond to the Better Access evaluation and to strengthen Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention system. It lays out funding for measures such as establishing a free and accessible digital mental health service, wrap around care for people with severe and/or complex needs and enhancing the delivery of mental health and suicide prevention services.

The government is also committing to increasing Head to Health services to expand access to free community based mental health services for adults with moderate to severe mental health needs, improving child and youth mental health services, extending the Indigenous Youth Connection to Culture program and maintaining funding to deliver targeted and culturally appropriate mental health support for First Nations Australians.

Responding to the 2023 Independent NDIS Review, half a billion dollars will go towards getting the National Disability Insurance Scheme to target fraud, improving cyber security, and working to reform cost arrangements.

Women’s health and safety

The budget addresses both women’s health and funding for violence prevention programs. This includes $56.1 million (and $0.4 million per year ongoing) to improve access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and $18.7 million to introduce a National Higher Education Code to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence, coming into effect from 1 January 2025. 

An additional $44.1 million will go to the National Legal Assistance Partnership and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (focussing on Community Legal Centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services). 

Humanitarian relief

The budget details that Australia will provide $232.2 million to support regional and global peacekeeping activities. This includes $144.3 million in additional military support to Ukraine, $13.2 million allocated to the Government’s response to the Hamas-Israel conflict and $2.9 million to support individuals and their families from significantly affected areas of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.