Economics and finance | Australia

22 May 2023

Budgets are a central tool of government, offering not just economic policy but defining social and environmental policies for the years ahead. The 2023 budget moves in “the direction of fairness,” but is it moving fast enough?

In this episode, we speak to Professor Paul Burke and Associate Professor Elise Klein about the impact of the budget priorities on peoples’ daily lives, the values that underlie it, and unpacking the choices that have been made.

“A government needs to have values to express those values and live the values as well,” Burke says.

Discussion centred on the care economy, the level of welfare payments and the revenue needed to support our most vulnerable. Associate Professor Elise Klein says the government was in a position to do something bold after voters asked for action on poverty, inequality, and climate action. A government “going from terrible to being less terrible is still terrible,” she says, adding that there are a lot of people being left behind in life-and-death situations because of the decisions of this Government in this budget.

In order to have more money to spend to solve these problems, Professor Paul Burke says Australia needs to be more efficient in raising revenue. As a country, if we created a few simple streams we could see billions of dollars being available to target poverty reduction.

“Behind the numbers are choices about who is winning and who is losing,” Klein said.

Jobseeker was raised from roughly $49 a day to $52 a day which leaves people having to make horrible decisions about keeping a roof over their head, putting food on the table or getting medical care that they need. Particularly startling when put into the context, as Elise Klein did, that around 40% of people on Jobseeker have a disability as it is now much harder to qualify for the Disability Support Pension. “We have a situation where people who are on that payment aren’t seeking jobs because they cannot,” Klein says. Others on Jobseeker are also doing unpaid work, including caring and other unpaid roles that are fundamental to the success of the economy. Paying them a living wage, as we did during COVID, is a step that must be taken for the betterment of the whole country.

Professor Paul Burke is Head of the Arndt-Corden Department of Economics and Deputy Director of the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University. His research is in energy and environmental economics, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific.

Elise Klein (OAM) is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Crawford School.  Her research is situated in the intersections and cracks of development, social policy, decoloniality and care.

Sharon Bessell is a Professor of Public Policy and Director of both the Children’s Policy Centre and the Poverty and Inequality Research Centre at ANU Crawford School of Public Policy.

Arnagretta Hunter is the Human Futures Fellow at ANU College of Health and Medicine, a cardiologist, physician, and a Senior Clinical Lecturer at ANU Medical School.


Show notes / The following was mentioned during this episode

Budget 2023-24- Budget Strategy and Outlook (2023) 

Budget 2023-24 – Delivering cost-of-living relief (2023) 

Budget Speech 2023-24

Budget 2023: Defining our values – Policy Forum Pod with Frank Bongiorno (2023)

Measuring what matters inquiry (2022)

Financial Stress and Social Security Settings in Australia – Ben Philips and Vivikth Narayanan (2021)

The value of the commons with Guy Standing – Policy Forum Pod (2021)

Latrobe Valley Authority (2023)

Proposed Changes to the Disability Support Pension (DSP) Impairment Tables (2022)

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