The Turnbull Government is protecting and boosting the key services that Australians rely on by sustainably funding Medicare, fully funding our share of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and investing in education.
Weak to modest wages growth has put more and more pressure on Australians and their families. It is therefore not surprising that Australians have become more acutely aware of the value of essential services, such as Medicare, that they rely on.
The Turnbull Government is putting to rest any doubts about Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
As part of our rock-solid commitment to Medicare we are lifting the freeze on the indexation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule introduced in the 2012-13 Budget by the former Government at a cost of $1.0 billion over the next four years.
In addition, we are reversing the removal of the bulk billing incentive for diagnostic imaging and pathology services and reversing the increase in PBS co-payment and changes to safety net arrangements and thresholds that were announced in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 Budgets at a cost of $2.2 billion over the next four years.
In addition to new health commitments in this Budget, the Turnbull Government has chosen to make sure that Medicare and PBS funding is guaranteed into the future, by introducing a new Medicare Guarantee Bill that will do three things:
Firstly, set up a new Medicare Guarantee Fund that by law can only be used by the Government to pay for expenses on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and the PBS.
Secondly the Medicare levy, less the rate set aside for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, will all be paid into the Medicare Guarantee Fund.
Thirdly, in addition to the funds raised from the Medicare levy, an additional proportion of the Government’s income tax revenue will also be paid into the Medicare Guarantee Fund to cover the Government’s MBS and PBS costs. This additional transfer is needed because the Medicare levy has not paid for all the costs of running the MBS and the PBS for decades. In fact it meets less than half these costs.
Each year before the Budget, the Government will adjust annual contributions to the fund to ensure that it meets forecast expenditure for the MBS and PBS.
Guaranteeing the NDIS
Australians with permanent and significant disability can be assured of access to vital care and support with the Government fully funding its share of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
To secure the Commonwealth’s contribution to funding the NDIS, from 1 July 2019 the Medicare levy will increase by half a percentage point from 2 to 2.5 per cent of taxable income.
The Government will direct one-fifth of the money raised by the Medicare levy along with NDIS underspends and other selected savings to a special NDIS Savings Fund.
As a further measure, the Government is providing $209 million to establish an independent NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to oversee the delivery of quality and safe services.
Investing record funding in education
The Government is committed to a schools funding model that is fundamentally fair, based on need, more transparent and tied to reforms that will boost educational outcomes.
Building on the $1.2 billion provided for schools in the 2016–17 Budget, the Government has committed to providing an additional $18.6 billion over the decade to 2027. While a strong level of funding for schools is vital, what’s more important is how that funding is used.
Funding for schools will be distributed based on need, as recommended by the Review of Funding for Schooling in 2011 led by Mr David Gonski AC. Reform priorities will be informed by a new Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, also to be chaired by Mr David Gonski AC.
We are also delivering a more sustainable higher education system.
An efficiency dividend of 2.5 per cent per annum will be applied to universities in 2018 and in 2019 and will not be able to be passed on to students. To better reflect the lifetime benefits reaped by higher education gradates, student contributions will be increased by 7.5 per cent, to be phased in by 1.8 per cent per annum over four years from 2018.
A new set of Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) repayment thresholds will also be introduced from 1 July 2018.
The Government is committed to ensuring students from disadvantaged backgrounds have the opportunity to participate in university.
The Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program will be reformed
to deliver two components — a National Priorities Pool and an Access and Participation Fund which rewards universities that deliver the best outcomes for Indigenous students and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
To assist around one million families, the Government is investing $37.3 billion over four years through its Jobs for Families Child Care Package to help ease cost of living pressures and provide more affordable access to quality child care.
A simplified Child Care Subsidy will provide support for those most in need, while the Child Care Safety Net offers extra protection for vulnerable families.
The 2017 Budget is about making the right choices to boost and protect the essential services that Australians rely on.