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(AUSTRALIA) Parliament Budget 2021 Report: Who are the ‘Winners & Losers’ after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg spoke today #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – May.11: He also committed $370 million to bolstering the nation’s biosecurity — but farmers and exporters hoping for assistance to recruit overseas workers or expand into foreign markets will be disappointed:

Budget 2021: What it means for rural and regional Australians: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg shovelled $200 million into a national soil strategy and promised at least $630 million to improve aged care in rural and remote communities, in a largely positive budget for regional and rural Australians’

BUDGET 2021:

Got a question about the budget? Get in touchWe want to hear your thoughts and questions about the budget and what it means for you.

The federal government hopes that by extending tax incentives, and spending big on soil management and biosecurity, Australian farmers will recover from years of drought and the industry will be worth $100 billion by 2030.

When it comes to regional health, along with the much-needed shot in the arm for aged care, rural GPs have picked up increased funding.

There’s also a major infrastructure spend across the board, including funding for roads and telecommunications.

Here are some of the key announcements for rural Australia from the 2021-22 federal budget:

Asset write-off

The federal government will extend a popular tax incentive that allows almost all Australian businesses to write off assets almost instantly.

The program was announced last October and had been expected to end next year but it will now be extended until June 30, 2023.

Pay dirt

Soil is a big focus of the government’s agriculture spend, with almost $200 million committed over four years to implement the National Soil Strategy.

The strategy includes a two-year pilot to provide rebates for farmers who share the results of soil testing.

The pilot is also expected to purchase privately-held soil data.

A further $59.6 million has been committed to trial low-emissions feed supplements for livestock, and a National Soil Carbon Innovation Challenge is expected to help lower emissions through soil management.

An additional $32 million will go to the federal government’s Agriculture Stewardship program to promote on-farm biodiversity.

This includes funding to develop a trading platform to link buyers and sellers of biodiversity services and an enhancing remnant vegetation pilot, that could see farmers paid to leave native vegetation on farms.

Aged care

A solid $630 million over five years will be spent to arrest the decline in aged-care services for rural, remote, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The funding includes $370 million over four years for aged-care providers to improve buildings and expand into under-serviced areas.

The government estimates this will provide about 1,400 construction jobs and benefit 471,000 senior Australians in rural and remote locations.Follow updates from the 2021 federal budget in our live blog.

Crucially,  $35 million over four years has been allocated to help rural and remote providers to access a locum workforce, recruit permanent staff and incentivise the retention of permanent staff.

There is also $13 million to establish regional offices for aged-care support, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care.

Play Video. Duration: 2 minutes 1 second
Government announces over $17 billion in new funding for aged care.

Regional health

The budget includes $9 million for allied health professionals to train in rural and remote areas and $20 million to replace older diagnostic imaging equipment. This is expected to benefit 80 regional, rural and remote practices.

There is also a significant investment in mental health, with initiatives to increase training places and support for psychiatrists in regional and remote areas, as well as an increased incentive for psychosocial support programs in regional, rural and remote parts of the country.

Play Video. Duration: 2 minutes 5 seconds
$2.3 billion of funding for mental health and suicide prevention included in the Federal Budget.

Farm workers

There is no new funding in this year’s budget to assist overseas workers to come to Australia, however the budget commits $25.2 million over four years to “attract people to modern agriculture job opportunities”, including seed funding for an industry-led pilot to attract school leavers to work in agriculture.

Platforms used to pick apples
There is no new funding in this year’s budget to assist overseas workers to come to Australia and help with labour shortages on farms. (ABC Rural : Fiona Breen)

There is also an allocation of $4.6 million over four years to help agricultural businesses plan for workers, and $1.6 million over two years to amend the Take Up a Job program which helps people to relocate for employment.

Under the changes, employees will only need to work a minimum of 40 hours over two weeks to receive $2,000 in relocation assistance. The program will also be opened up to 17-year-olds for the first time.

Trade

The National Farmers’ Federation estimates the cost of disruption to international trade, including sanctions imposed by China, will cost the industry close to $40 billion over the next decade.

The NFF had been seeking a long-term agricultural strategy — but won’t get one in this year’s budget.

Instead, $15 million will be spent over four years to promote Australia’s trade interests, including the appointment of a new agriculture envoy.

A truck carries a Hamburg Sud shipping container in front of a stack of other containers at Sydney's Port Botany.
Farmers believe there will be disruption to trade.(ABC News: John Gunn)

The budget notes that “while the ongoing trade restrictions from China have had significant impacts on specific firms and regions, many goods targeted by the restrictions have so far been successfully re-directed to other export markets, with limited impacts on Australia’s overall economic recovery”.

The government has also committed to bolster its funding for the World Trade Organisation, but it is not clear by how much.

Exporters benefiting from the International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) may be disappointed to see that assistance has not been extended beyond September 2021.

IFAM was established so that exporters reliant on airfreight for perishable produce could access overseas markets when COVID-19 restrictions limited flights out of Australia.

So far, more than $780 million has been committed to IFAM.

Farm Household Allowance

More than 5,000 farmers who have received the Farm Household Allowance will have business debts waived, in line with a recommendation from the 2018 FHA review, at a cost of almost $15 million to the government.

The ABC understands the debts were accrued when farmers receiving the allowance underestimated their earnings.

Roads and phones

The budget commits $85 million for the Regional Connectivity Program to deliver more broadband and mobile services to more than 80 locations and more than $15 billion over 10 years for road, rail and community infrastructure projects across Australia.

Early announcements

Prior to the release of the federal budget, the government had already announced $370 million to protect Australia from pests and disease, $600 million for a new resilience agency promised after the Royal Commission into the 2019-20 bushfires, and $65 million for rural and remote GPs.

We want to hear your questions and comments about the budget and how it impacts you. You can submit your response here.

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