39 programs in the 2016 budget that might surprise you

Photo: Getty Images.

As always, from what’s been revealed in the days leading to the budget, we knew a lot of it in advance. There would be changes to income tax and that this would be benefit middle income earners and stop their shift, via bracket creep, into a higher tax bracket.

But the Australian’s government range of activity is vast and there were some surprising – but welcome – programs funded, including the National Aerial Firefighting Centre and an anti‑doping program for 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Others, such as the National Carp Control Plan, have us scratching our heads.

Here are some of the surprising programs that made it into the 2016 federal budget.

A modern-day, high-tech rabbit-proof fence

The Government will provide $15.9 million over four years from 2016‑17 to improve the analytical capability of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

This measure will establish an advanced capability to turn data into intelligence for use by government entities (States and Territories), and where relevant, across industry and the wider community, to better manage Australia’s biosecurity risks.

Funding for this measure has already been provided for by the Government.

More counsellors for the bush

The Government will provide $7.1 million over four years from 2016‑17 to maintain the additional rural financial counsellors in drought‑affected areas funded through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper (the White Paper). The additional funding in the White Paper was a one‑off measure for 2015‑16 to provide increased resources to service providers in drought‑affected areas.

Continuing this funding will provide the equivalent of 15 extra counsellors each year to assist farming families to manage issues associated with drought and drought recovery. The funding will be targeted to regions in need, assessed on the basis of prevailing drought conditions.

This measure builds on the 2015‑16 Budget measure titled Supporting Drought Affected Communities — Immediate Assistance.

Monitoring chemicals for farms and horses

The Government will provide $17.1 million over four years from 2016‑17 to further reform agricultural and veterinary chemicals regulation.

This measure will improve the competitiveness of farmers by streamlining access to productivity‑enhancing chemicals, and increase our knowledge about chemical residues in the food chain and the environment.

Funding for this measure has already been provided for by the Government.

More resources for airborne firefighters

Photo: Scott Barbour/ Getty Images.

The Government provided an additional $0.5 million in 2015‑16 to the National Aerial Firefighting Centre. This funding boosts the aerial firefighting resources available to Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania over the fire season.

The cost of this measure will be met from within the existing resources of the Attorney‑General’s Department.

More marketing to overseas students

The Government will provide $12.0 million over four years from 2016‑17 to support implementation of the National Strategy for International Education. Activities funded under the Strategy will aim to ensure Australia remains competitive in attracting international students to study with Australian providers, and that Australia is positioned to grow and diversify its share of the global international education market through innovative course offerings.

Supporting kids with disabilities in schools

The Government will provide $118.2 million over two years from 2016‑17 in additional support for school students with a disability, targeted to those schools with the greatest need. This funding will be in addition to the current loading for students with disability that is provided as part of the broad school funding arrangements under the Australian Education Act 2013.

Asbestos awareness

The Government will provide an additional $3.4 million over two years from 2016‑17 to the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to coordinate the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Management and Awareness 2014‑2018 (the Plan). The Plan establishes a framework for a national approach to asbestos management and awareness in Australia.

A huge new program for helping unemployed youths into the workforce

The Government will provide $751.7 million over four years from 2016‑17 to establish a Youth Jobs PaTH program for young job seekers aged under 25 years to improve youth employment outcomes. The new pathway is designed to enhance young people’s employability and provide up to 30,000 young people each year with real work experience. The pathway has three elements: Prepare — Trial — Hire.

As part of this measure, the Government will also achieve savings of $204.2 million over four years. The design of wage subsidies available through jobactive will be improved to reduce red tape for employers, including by simplifying payments and enabling employers to choose more flexible payment arrangements.

$20 million for native trees

The Government will provide an additional $20.0 million over two years from 2018‑19 to support the planting of native trees and associated understorey species to re‑establish green corridors and urban forests.

The cost of this measure will be met from within the existing resources of the National Landcare Program.

This measure extends the 2014‑15 Budget measure titled 20 Million Trees — commencement.

This measure delivers on the Government’s election commitment.

Infrastructure in the Antarctic

Image: David Barringhaus/Australian Antarctic Division

The Government will provide $55.0 million over 10 years from 2016‑17 to undertake scoping studies and commence delivery of enhanced infrastructure capabilities in the Australian Antarctic Territory. This includes support for an over‑ice traverse science capability and preliminary work to develop year‑round aviation access to Antarctica.

Provision for this funding has already been included in the forward estimates.

Maintaining a big presence in Antarctica

The Government will provide $83.1 million over four years from 2016‑17 and further funding of $413.1 million over 29 years from 2020‑21 with $10.3 million per annum ongoing from 2049‑50, to support Australia’s presence in Antarctica. The funding will contribute to maintaining a sustainable level of operations to protect Australia’s environmental, economic, scientific, security and strategic interests in Antarctica.

A provision for part of this funding has already been included in the forward estimates, and the remaining cost of this measure will be offset by redirecting funding from within the Environment and Defence portfolios.

A national water tsar

The Government will provide $8.7 million in 2016‑17 to better align the funding of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office with the other elements of the Government’s water functions.

This measure has been funded by re‑profiling funds within the Environment portfolio.

Support for people with a hearing loss

The Government will provide $2.2 million over two years from 2015‑16 to consider the future ownership of Australian Hearing Services to ensure it has a strong and viable future in the context of a contestable National Disability Insurance Scheme market and continues to provide high quality valued services to Australians with a hearing loss.

The Government has not yet made a decision to transfer Australian Hearing into non‑government ownership. People with a hearing loss who currently receive (or are eligible to receive) Community Service Obligation services will continue to receive those services.

The cost of this measure will be offset by a special dividend payment from Australian Hearing in 2016‑17.

Further information can be found in the press release of 12 February 2016 issued by the Minister for Finance.

More staff for Senate crossbenchers

The Government will provide $5.2 million over five years from 2015‑16 to increase the number of personal employee positions allocated to non‑Government independent Senators under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 from two to three personal employees. The provision of an additional personal employee will assist the independent senators with the consideration of the detailed policy and legislative information that comes before the Senate.

This will be funded from whole‑of‑government savings.

Better expenses management for MPs

Photo: Scott Morrison MP/ Facebook.

The Government will provide $0.5 million in 2015‑16 to undertake a scoping study into the development of an integrated Information Communication Technology (ICT) solution for the management of parliamentary entitlements.

This aligns with the Review An Independent Parliamentary Entitlements System, which identified the need for an upgrade to the ICT system supporting the parliamentary expenses system.

Further information can be found in the press release of 23 March 2016 issued by the Minister for Finance.

Diplomatic representation in PNG, China, and Ukraine

The Government will provide $42.3 million (including $16.8 million in capital funding) over five years from 2015—16 to expand Australia’s diplomatic network by opening a consulate in Lae (Papua New Guinea) and another post in China as well as extending the interim embassy in Kyiv (Ukraine) until September 2016. An expanded diplomatic network will promote Australia’s foreign policy and trade interests. Establishing a further diplomatic presence in China will open new investment opportunities for Australian business following ratification of the China‑Australia Free Trade Agreement.

The Government will fund the establishment of the diplomatic posts in Lae through redirecting funding provided for the establishment of a diplomatic post in Buka (Papua New Guinea), which is no longer proceeding. Continuation of the interim embassy in Kyiv will be met from the existing resourcing of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Further information can be found in the press releases of 10 February 2016 and 3 March 2016 issued by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Marketing for free trade

The Government will provide $1.8 million over four years from 2016‑17 to enhance the online Free Trade Agreement Portal managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (ftaportal.dfat.gov.au). This measure will improve the functionality of the portal and allow additional information covering all of Australia’s free trade agreements to be available.

The cost of this measure will be met from within the existing resources of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This measure builds on the 2015‑16 Budget measure titled Free Trade Agreement Promotion.

A counter-people-smuggling fund

The Government will provide $9.2 million over four years from 2016‑17 to enable the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to continue initiatives to prevent people smuggling. This measure provides for the continuation of the People Smuggling Taskforce, the Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking, and Ministerial and senior officials meetings of the Bali process to strengthen cooperation in our region.

The cost of this measure will be offset by redirecting funding from the 2016‑17 Budget measure titled Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio — efficiencies.

This measure extends the 2014‑15 Budget measure titled International Engagement to Prevent and Disrupt Maritime People Smuggling.

A huge extra splurge on passports

The Government will provide an additional $46.7 million over four years from 2016‑17 to meet the increased costs of producing and providing passports to Australian citizens.

$1.5 million for anti-doping monitoring

Photo: Oli Scarff/ Getty Images.

The Government will provide $1.5 million over three years from 2016‑17 to the Australian Sports Anti‑Doping Authority for increased anti‑doping activities prior to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, including pre‑Games testing of both Australian team members and international athletes.

Extra funding for treating for people with chronic conditions

The Government will provide $21.3 million over four years from 2015‑16 to trial the Health Care Homes model of coordinated primary health care, which was recommended by the Primary Health Care Advisory Group’s Report — Better Outcomes for People with Chronic and Complex Health Conditions.

The trial will support eligible primary care providers to deliver coordinated care, management and support to approximately 65,000 voluntary participants with chronic and complex conditions. Funding will be provided to health care practitioners by redirecting fee for service payments for Chronic Disease Management Medicare items for participating patients.

An evaluation of the impact of the pilot on improving participant health outcomes and reducing avoidable hospitalisations will be considered in 2018.

Further information can be found in the joint press release of 31 March 2016 issued by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health.

Policing for medical drugs

The Government will provide $20.4 million over four years from 2016‑17, including $9.5 million in capital funding, to improve the regulation of therapeutic goods in Australia in response to the Expert Panel Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation. The funding will improve access to therapeutic goods for consumers and introduce more flexible and timely regulatory processes for the therapeutic goods industry.

The ongoing cost of this measure from 2017‑18 will be met by the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s cost recovery arrangements.

$12 million for treating a rare genetic metabolism disorder

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The Government will provide $12.3 million over five years to include nitisinone (Orfadin®) on the Life Saving Drugs Program, for the treatment of hereditary tyrosinemia type 1.

Tyrosinemia is a rare genetic metabolism disorder that affects the ability of the body to break down certain amino acids.

$34 million on eye cameras

The Government will provide $33.8 million over four years from 2016‑17 to list a new item on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) for retinal photography with a non‑mydriatic retinal camera. The listing will benefit communities in rural and remote locations where there is limited access to optometric and ophthalmic services to diagnose Diabetic Retinopathy.

Further information will be available in the summary of changes included in the MBS issued by the Department of Health when the amendment takes effect.

Better cancer screening

The Government will provide $178.3 million over five years from 2015‑16 to develop a National Cancer Screening Register to replace current State and Territory registers for the National Cervical Screening Program and the current register for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Funding of $148.4 million for this measure has already been provided for by the Government.

This measure builds on the 2014‑15 Budget measure titled Full implementation of National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme and the 2015‑16 Budget measure titled National Cervical Screening Programme — reform.

See also the related expense measure titled Operational Costs for Cardiac and Breast Devices Registries.

STI control for healthcare workers in the Torres Strait

The Government will provide $4.5 million over four years from 2016‑17 to the Queensland Government to continue funding for primary healthcare staff and healthcare workers to reduce the risks and prevalence of blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections on Saibai Island, and to expand current activities to the rest of the Torres Strait region. The funding will be provided through a National Partnership Agreement.

The cost of this measure will be met from within the existing resources of the Department of Health.

Stopping diseases spreading through food

The Government will provide $7.1 million over four years from 2016‑17 to continue funding for Australia’s national surveillance system for foodborne diseases, in collaboration with the states and territories.

Provision for this funding has already been included in the forward estimates.

Depression support for new and expectant mums

The Government will provide $0.8 million over two years from 2015‑16 to develop online support resources for women who are experiencing, or are at risk of developing, perinatal depression.

The cost of this measure and for the ongoing management of the online support tools will be met from within the existing resources of the Department of Health.

Private Health Insurance and Prostheses Committees

Image: Oli Scarff / Getty Images.

The Government will provide $2.2 million over three years from 1 July 2016 to establish the Private Health Sector Reform Committee to provide advice on the design and implementation of private health insurance reforms, with the aim of reducing the cost and improving the value of private health insurance to consumers.

The Government will also expand the Prostheses List Advisory Committee to include additional expertise to further develop and advise on the implementation of prostheses reform, with the costs of this component to be met from within the existing resources of the Department of Health.

Fighting superbugs

The Government will provide $9.4 million over four years from 2016‑17 to improve Australia’s capacity to detect, prevent and respond to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Activities will include:

  • funding the National AMR and Antimicrobial Usage Surveillance System;
  • improving antimicrobial awareness in general practice;
  • developing a website to disseminate information for consumers and professionals; and
  • supporting the work of the Australian Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on AMR.
  • Taking More Action to Prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

    The Government will provide $10.5 million over four years from 2016‑17 to reduce the occurrence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), focusing on prevention of FASD in high risk remote and rural communities. Activities will include establishing a FASD Clinical Network, a FASD diagnostic clinic, a Model of Care for Communities, and expanding the FASD Technical Network.

    This measure will aim to improve the diagnosis of FASD in high risk communities and will provide additional education and training for families and health professionals to reduce the instances of FASD in new pregnancies.

    This measure builds on initiatives included as part of the National Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Action Plan which was announced by the former Assistant Minister for Health on 25 June 2014.

    $12 million for asylum-seeker kids

    The Government will provide an additional $12.1 million in 2016‑17 and 2017‑18 for the supervision and welfare of unaccompanied humanitarian minors (UHMs).

    The UHM Programme provides settlement services to non‑citizens under the age of 18 years who arrive in Australia without a guardian, and who are the recipient of a Humanitarian visa.

    This measure builds on the 2014‑15 Budget measure titled Unaccompanied humanitarian minors — additional funding.

    Astronomers

    The Government will provide $12.6 million in 2019‑20 for the operating costs of the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO). The AAO, a division of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, operates the Anglo‑Australian and UK Schmidt telescopes providing observing facilities for Australian optical astronomers.

    Food labelling

    The Government will provide $19.4 million over six years from 2015‑16 (including $0.7 million in 2020‑21) to implement changes to the Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) framework for food. This measure includes an information campaign to inform consumers and producers of the new framework, and funding for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to deliver a compliance and enforcement strategy.

    Funding of $11.8 million in 2015‑16 has already been provisioned by the Government.

    Further information on the changes to the CoOL framework can be found in the joint press release of 31 March 2016 issued by the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer, and the Minister for Regional Development, Regional Communications and Rural Health.

    Barnaby Joyce’s fish herpes thing

    Photo: Lintao Zhang/ Getty Images.

    The Government will provide $15.0 million over three years from 2016‑17 for the development and initial implementation of a National Carp Control Plan. This funding will enable the coordinated release of a carp bio‑control agent (Cyprinid Herpesvirus 3) into the Murray‑Darling Basin by the end of 2018.

    Support for Paralympians

    The Government will provide $0.5 million over four years from 2016‑17 to amend portability rules in order to allow para‑athletes receiving the Disability Support Pension additional periods of up to four weeks of overseas travel without their payment being impacted. This will enable these athletes to attend approved international events leading up to the 2016 Paralympic Games.

    This measure will apply retrospectively from September 2015 and will also apply to the 2018 winter Paralympic Games and the 2020 summer Paralympic Games.

    Counselling for problem gamblers

    The Government will provide an additional $7.1 million in 2016‑17 to continue the delivery of financial counselling for people affected by problem gambling.

    Mental health for defence veterans

    The Government will provide $37.9 million over four years from 2016‑17 to extend access to certain mental health services on a non‑liability basis to all current and former permanent Australian Defence Force (ADF) members irrespective of their date, duration or type of service. Eligible services will include treatment for post traumatic stress and depressive disorders. Current and former ADF members, including victims of abuse in the ADF, will be able to apply for treatment without needing to obtain a formal diagnosis beforehand.

    War memorial upgrades

    The Government will provide $7.5 million over four years from 2016‑17 to enable the Office of Australian War Graves to undertake the following refurbishment projects:

  • rebuild 1,000 existing war graves which have been irreparably damaged;
  • restore more than 2,800 grave plaques in the Lae War Cemetery in Papua New Guinea;
  • enhance the safety of the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum in Thailand; and
  • conduct a scoping study for the refurbishment of the Australian War Memorial in London, including urgent remedial work.
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