The Federal Budget has left current and future students wanting as they have been asked to pay ‘a bit more’ for their education. The treasurer, Scott Morrison, recommended the budget to parliament this evening, arguing it was a fair package of measures that would promote jobs creation.

University Loans and Fees

University students across Australia will face higher fees and have to repay loans earlier.

‘We are launching a fairer system, with students asked to pay a bit more for their own education costs’, said Morrison.

University fees will increase by 1.8 per cent from January next year, and will continue to rise to 7.5 per cent by 2021.

With these increases, students may pay up to $3600 more for a four-year course, and $75,000 for a six-year medical degree according to The Guardian.

Senator Simon Birmingham has defended the decision, arguing that the policy is ‘quite measured, quite modest and quite balanced’, adding that ‘taxpayers will still pick up 54 per cent of average fee costs per student.’

Students will also be made to repay their HECS-HELP loans at a lower annual salary – repayments will kick in at $42,000 instead of $55,000 – with a sliding scale from one per cent to 10 per cent depending on income.

ANUSA Education Officer, Robyn Lewis told Woroni that ‘$42,000 is a long way below the median income, and means graduates will be paying their degrees off before it’s financially sustainable for them to do so.’

These measures have been introduced in an effort to lessen the $52 billion of student debt currently owed to the Federal Government – this figure is critiqued as unsustainable and it is estimated that a quarter of the debt won’t be repaid.

The Government estimates that the changes will save $2.8 billion over the next four years.

Housing

On housing, Morrison said: ‘In this budget, we have chosen to place downward pressure on the rising costs of living.’

The Government will abandon the $1 billion national housing infrastructure facility based on the UK model, and instead, move to fund micro-city deals that remove infrastructure impediments and develop new homes across Australia.

‘We will work with states and territories and local governments to get more homes built, because prices are higher where demand is greater than supply.

‘If a family or an individual has a roof over their head that they can rely on then all of life’s other challenges become more manageable’, said Morrison.

An online Commonwealth Land Bank will also be established to provide funds for residential development.

Other measures include: allowing managed investment trusts to be spent on developing and owning affordable housing, increasing the capital gains tax discount to 60 per cent, and providing opportunities for superannuation funds to invest in affordable housing.

Morrison also announced that $375 million will be put towards ‘a permanent extension of homelessness funding with the states and territories, with a continued focus on supporting young people and victims of domestic violence.’

The National Disability Insurance Scheme

The Government has chosen to close the gap of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The NDIS is an insurance scheme that takes a lifetime approach by investing in people with disability early to improve their outcomes later in life.

‘The funding gap is currently $55.7 billion over the next 10 years … To ensure the NDIS is fully funded, we will legislate to increase the Medicare levy by 0.5 percentage points in two years’ time when the extra bills start coming in.

‘Even if we are not impacted directly, this is all of our responsibility’, Morrison said.

The Budget also allocates funds for mental health.

‘We will invest an additional $115 million in mental health, including funding for rural telehealth psychological services, mental health research, and to prevent suicide.

‘We will also invest $1.4 billion in groundbreaking health research over the next four years’, said Morrison.

Big Projects

The Federal Government has committed to big projects: The Western Sydney Airport, an inland rail and an expansion of Snowy Mountains hydro scheme.

‘To support growth, we choose to invest in building Australia, rail by rail, runway by runway, and road by road’, said Morrison.

The Government will commence on-site work on the Western Sydney Airport in 2018, and aims to be up-and-running by 2026 with a 3700 metre runway and terminal capable of servicing 10 million passengers per annum.

Sydney Airport, the owner of Kingsford Smith airport, refused the offer to build and operate the new airport, unwilling to risk the short-term lack of profits – instead this responsibility falls on the Government. The Government will commence on-site work in 2018, and be up-and-running by 2026 with a 3700 metre runway and terminal capable of servicing 10 million passengers per annum.

An allocation of $8.4 billion will be put towards a 1,700km inland rail, which will create a direct line to move goods from Brisbane to Melbourne in less than 24 hours, and also link south-east Queensland with Perth and Adelaide.

The project will ‘support 16,000 jobs at the peak of construction’, says Morrison.

The Government has pledged to expand the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme – building new tunnels and power stations – and will, according to Malcolm Turnbull, mean ‘cheaper power prices and more money in the pockets of Australians.’ The government plans to increase the current 4,000 megawatt output by 50 per cent in a bid to prevent power shortages on the east coast.

In addition to this, Morrison has stated that: ‘The Commonwealth is open to acquiring a larger share or indeed outright ownership of the Snowy Hydro from the New South Wales and Victorian state governments, subject to sensible conditions.’

See Monday’s Woroni for a full coverage of the budget.