Soaring fuel prices, small business support, and foreign worker shortages are the pressing issues Australians hope will be addressed in the 2022 Federal Budget.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is set to announce the Government’s new fiscal policies on Tuesday, just weeks ahead of the election expected to be held in May.
The surging cost of living and skyrocketing fuel prices are tipped to be high on the agenda as the government seeks to smooth out issues before Australians vote.
Tax cuts – including slashing the 44 cents-a-litre fuel duty by up to 20 cents and slashing beer duty by 30 cents – are likely on the table, with Scott Morrison also hinting one-off cash handouts are on the cards.
More than 2.3 million small businesses are expected to receive $1.85billion in cash flow support, while welfare payments will be bumped up and childcare subsidies will be revamped.
Pictured: Sydney tradies Alline Lapruza, 32, (right) and Gleyse Silva, 26, (left)
The first-home buyers scheme will see an expansion, while cash injections are on the cards for defence, construction, family, domestic, and sexual violence prevention.
Here, Daily Mail Australia hears from families, couples, workers, students, and retirees, to find what out pressing issues they would like addressed tonight.
What they want: Fuel cost relief
Mark Sweeting is the owner of Fusion Electrical Projects, an electrical company that offers retail and commercial services across NSW and the ACT.
While his company felt supported throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, he said support for small businesses is always welcome.
However, he said the rising cost of fuel was having a major financial toll as he is responsible for refilling his fleet of work vehicles for his team to travel to jobs.
Mark Sweeting (left) and Jayden Carr (right), from Fusion Electrical Projects, said the surging cost of fuel was hitting their books hard
‘We’ve been pretty lucky, we did get a lot of subsidies over the last couple of years, but the fuel is really sticking us now,’ he said.
‘When you’re running multiple cars, you feel it.
‘Hopefully it changes soon.’
What they want: Cash, climate action, cheaper beer
University students, in particular, are feeling the crunch of skyrocketing petrol prices as they balance work, study, and social commitments on tight incomes.
Natasha Gering, 21, is studying psychology while her partner James Bradley, 22, is completing a degree in software engineering and science.
Natasha said she used to pay around $80 a month for fuel, which has now doubled to around $160.
She said the additional fuel costs means she has to rethink her plans for everyday activities – and welcomes any initiatives the government implements to reduce the burden.
‘I try and spend a bit less to compensate. And with tolls on top, it’s very expensive. I spend about $200 on tolls a month.’
Emmanuel Alonso and Joanna Haddad have found themselves in a similar situation.
Natasha Gering, 21, and James Bradley, 22, (pictured) have felt the financial impact of surging fuel prices
‘I’m having placement in Dubbo and that is like a five and a half hour drive,’ Emmanuel, a nursing student, said.
‘It’s going to be pretty pricey. Normally I’d pay $35, but last time it was double that price.’
The young couple have switched to using public transport to save money – which has also been problematic due to the recent train strikes.
‘My [petrol] was $60, and now I am paying $90,’ Joanna said.
‘It has affected how I use transport. And because of the train strikes recently there have been delays.’
As students, the pair also embraced the possibility of one-off cash payments.
‘I’m happy with any funding that we get,’ Emmanuel said.
Austin Wallace, 18, said he hopes the government will take more action on climate change in the upcoming fiscal announcement.
Emmanuel Alonso and Joanna Haddad (pictured) have been opting for public transport to save money in the face of surging fuel prices
‘I would like to see more funding in renewable energy, like electric cars,’ he said.
Jamie Podmore-Taylor, 18, who works part-time and studies full-time, does not qualify for student support benefits because of her parents’ income – even though she is financially independent.
‘I applied but was unsuccessful because I do not meet the criteria,’ she said.
She would like payment criteria to better reflect the needs of students in similar situations, saying: ‘It would be nice not to work a million hours a week’.
Receiving no financial support from her family or the government, she faced income insecurity during the pandemic when her work, in hospitality, abruptly shut amid lockdowns and Covid cases.
‘I couldn’t do as much as I normally would, just having to save money,’ she said. ‘I had to be careful where to spend my fuel, and making lifestyle changes to make sure I had enough.’
Kunja Sharma, 22, is an automotive student and manager of an I Love Pizza store in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
He was happy with how the government managed the pandemic and has no complaints or hopes for changes – not even to fuel costs, which he says are luckily covered by his boss.
‘I study and work about 20 hours a week. We remained open during Covid, we just stopped doing dine-ins,’ he said.
‘I’ve got a really nice boss, so he’s paying us well and looks after us if we need help.
‘We are happy and no one has faced any problems.’
George Dovellos, 21, a student and bar manager, said his workplace has felt the bite of rising beer costs.
‘The beer tax sucks. We had to put all of our prices up and the customers have been complaining,’ he said.
‘We are only a little pub, we don’t get a very big discount on volumes because we don’t order much, so the tax is massive for us.’
What they want: A fairer childcare system
Sydney parents Martin Wheelan and Maggie Wojtysiak (pictured) who have recently welcomed six-week-old Clara
Martin Wheelan and Maggie Wojtysiak welcomed their baby girl, Clara, six weeks ago.
Classified as high incomer earners, Ms Wojtysiak said they have been left disappointed after continuously being excluded from family benefits, despite limited childcare support severely disadvantaging most working parents.
‘It’s always, ‘but, but, but’ – we are always outside the requirements,’ she said.
‘We both work, so there is just nothing to assist us.’
Mr Wheelan added that ‘the government generally has a different view to the reality of working families’.
‘Working families are considered to be people who are way poorer. In Sydney, two salaries is everybody, but last time the government mean-tested it at $80,000. It just doesn’t work, because no one qualifies for it,’ he said.
‘It actually helps people who are not working more than people who are working.’
Ms Wojtysiak said she was hoping to take 12 months off but the timeframe ultimately depends on their financial situation.
‘We will just have to see how we go. It might be less, but that’s the reality.’
Ms Wojtysiak said women were often forced to choose between maintaining their careers or growing their families due to limited childcare support.
The Budget will include a range of measures to improve Australia’s health system. Pictured: Two nurses in Sydney
‘I know from friends of mine that once they had their second or third child they could not afford to go to work. It made more sense for them to be a stay-at-home mother and stay out of the workforce,’ she said.
‘Working a couple of days a week was more expensive, even with the subsidies, than staying at home on one income. One income would have gone entirely to childcare.
‘So something [in the system] is not working.’
Ms Wojtysiak’s mother Alina added that mothers were often forced to abandon their careers in favour of less-paid jobs after taking extended periods off.
‘They usually pick up any jobs,’ she said.
‘They can’t return to their professions, even after three years there is a massive bias on being out of the workforce. It’s very, very hard.’
Mother-of-two Mel Garafano, who works in banking, gave birth to her second child four weeks ago.
She said her family earn above the threshold to receive childcare subsidies, but are ‘very lucky’ both sets of grandparents will be able to help care for the kids when they return to work.
However, Ms Garafano said a well-paid friend was facing the difficult decision of whether or not to expand her family because of limited childcare support.
Hazel and Peter Jolley (pictured) are hoping rising fuel prices will be addressed for the sake of the economy
‘She is on a good income and the decision to expand her family is really impacted by how much support she gets from childcare.
‘It’s her career, or a second child. She gets very minimal rebates in order to incentivise her to have more children.’
After witnessing the tireless efforts of healthcare workers during her recent time in hospital, Ms Garafano wants to see a pay rise for health care workers.
‘I think there was less than a percent increase for nurses and they have really been keeping everything going for the last couple of years,’ she said.
‘It takes a special person to deal with what they do every day.’
Ms Garafano also believes more protections, other than only vaccines, need to be put in place for vulnerable Australians as the nation reopens as the threat of catching highly-infectious Covid variants rises.
She spent months in lockdown prior to recently giving birth to avoid catching the virus, only to be at the greatest risk of infection once arriving at the hospital.
What they want: Lower prices, fuel cost relief
Hazel and Peter Jolley, who are both still working full-time as a sales representative and bus driver, respectively, welcomed a possible tax cut on fuel duty and more support for small businesses.
They have been disheartened by the growing number of empty shops across Sydney that have become casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While neither of them are greatly affected by soaring petrol prices through their work, the married couple are concerned high prices will have a major impact on the economy.
‘It is going to kill everyone. With petrol prices that high, then obviously everything else is affected,’ Mrs Jolley said.
Mr Jolley added: ‘For contractors, fuel is a very important part of negotiating wages.’
What they want: Help pivoting business online, consistent payments, staff shortages eased, fuel relief
Bookshop manager Alyssa Reinke (pictured), of Title Barangaroo, would welcome support for small businesses struggling to bounce back from Covid lockdowns
Bookshop manager Alyssa Reinke, who runs Title Barangaroo, would like to see more support for small businesses, like grants to help them pivot online, as they continue to grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic.
‘JobKeeper was immensely helpful for us, especially because we’re in such a corporate area,’ Ms Reinke said.
‘[But] we really rely on our corporate customers and they haven’t been back to work for two years now and that has been brutal on us. It’s been a ghost town.
‘Something definitely in support of small businesses [would be great].
‘Even incentives for people to come into the city or a grant to help businesses build in someway, like going online or holding events, that would allow them to shoulder the burdens of people not coming in store.’
Ms Reinke said JobKeeper worked ‘so well’ and kept them afloat, but it was ‘tough’ for the business once the payment was removed.
‘They kind of expected everything would go back to normal, but being in such a corporate area, that has not happened at all,’ she said.
‘You know we are not even at 50 per cent what we used to be. So many places around Barangaroo have closed. It used to be such a destination to have lunch and shop, now it is just waiting.’
Sam Galouzis, who owns Mr Mens Barber Shop in Bondi, is hoping to see financial support for small businesses in the 2022 budget
Sam Galouzis, who owns Mr Mens Barber Shop in Bondi, said his business struggled to survive lockdown.
Asked whether he feels supported by the government, Mr Galouzis said: ‘No, not really. I think we got done.’
‘During Covid, we got hit really hard. The only reason I am back here is because I had savings,’ he said.
‘Government assistance only paid my rent. What about my mortgages and expenses? Running a house, family?
‘And when we came back we had nothing in our accounts. That’s why so many shops have closed.’
Mr Galouzis said small businesses need more funding in the budget as they try to get back on their feet after the pandemic.
‘They can’t just give you a lump sum payment of $15,000 for four months when your rent is $1000 a week.’
Pictured: Bobby Volcevski (left), the owner of Back Row West café, with his Head Chef Andy Duncan (right)
Mr Volcevski wants the government to introduce initiatives to entire skilled foreign workers back to Australia. Pictured: One of Mr Volcevski’s members of staff pours a beer
Head chef Andy Duncan added that several applicants have stood up interviews after accepting other jobs due to the industry’s current high demand for workers.
‘It’s very, very difficult [to get staff],’ he said.
‘People don’t turn up because they’ve got another job. It’s just that easy for them.’
Tristan Fung (pictured), who runs International Wing Chun Academy, would appreciate fuel relief and help for small businesses
Tristan Fung, who runs International Wing Chun Academy, a self defence and martial arts school in the city, said petrol relief was a must.
He is also hoping the government will inject some much-needed funding into small business whose customer bases remain down after Covid.
‘We’re coming out of two years of lockdowns and outbreaks so any help that can be extended to small businesses, particularly in the CBD, would be most welcome,’ he said.
‘It’s been difficult with a lot of people working from home. Our foot traffic in certain parts of the city is down more than 50 per cent.
‘So anything that could help small business owners would be appreciated – and would influence my vote.’
Workers stood down during Covid
What they want: Support for those in need
Asher Port, 23, was stood down from his job as Australia went into lockdown in March, 2020, but was ineligible for government payments because of a loophole.
‘The government brought out the JobSeeker payment on the 31st, but I was let go on the 30th,’ he said.
Although the situation was frustrating, he feels lucky to have not been as badly financially impacted as many other Australians.
‘That was annoying, but I live at home. There must have been lots of people in my situation that didn’t get payments,’ he said.
As many still grapple with ongoing financial ramifications from the pandemic, Mr Port, hopes to see targeted financial support for those in need.
He also supports tax cuts on petrol to reduce the burden of the rising cost of living.
Asher Port, 23, (pictured) missed out on government support despite losing his job due to the Covid lockdown because of a payment loophole
‘The tax is around 40 cents a litre, which is around $25 extra a tank, so a reduction would be a good thing for the average person,’ the IT worker said.
However, he does not believe a cash-splash by the Morrison government will be enough to help the Liberals win favour with voters leading into the election.
‘I think people see through that when the government says ‘we are going to give this one off payment’,’ he said.
‘I think people are now looking for a long-term type leader. In South Australia, the incumbent premier was just kicked out because he had a lot of problems there, and the current Labor leader who just got in is looking towards the future, like goals for the next 8-12 years.
‘I think that approach is popular now for a lot of people and Aussies are pretty smart about those one-time payments handed out before the election.’
Real estate agents
Ray and White Bondi Director/Principal Ron Bauer (pictured) thinks the government should make some first-home buyer benefits permanent
What they want: More first home buyer relief
Ray and White Bondi Director/Principal Ron Bauer believes the government could put more initiatives in place to help first home buyers trying to land a foot on the property ladder.
‘First home buyers used to have far more advantages that they no longer have,’ he said.
‘In the past, stamp duty has been waived or first home buyers could pay it off over three years.
‘It seems logical to me that should always be in place. That would really help people get into the market for the first time.’
While he does not feel this budget is going to have a ‘real effect’ on the market, Mr Bauer said the next hurdle facing the industry are looming interest rate increases.
He said higher interest rates could lead to more houses going on the market, which could make homes more affordable for others who had been locked out.
FEDERAL BUDGET – WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:
THE BIG PICTURE
* With the COVID-19 pandemic, flooding and Ukraine-Russia war creating headwinds, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is emphasising the ‘fiscal dividend of a stronger economy’
* Budget deficit estimated to be around $70 billion, instead of the $98.9 billion estimated in the mid-year budget review in December 2021
* Debt is edging towards $1 trillion, but budget papers will show it stabilising before declining in the medium term based on continuing economic growth
* Unemployment on four per cent (February official figure)
* Budget papers will give a conservative estimate of revenue from minerals such as coal and iron ore, despite them earning record prices
THE GOVERNMENT’S PLAN
* Keep in place a tax-to-GDP ratio at or below 23.9 per cent
* Infrastructure investment
* Boosting skills
* Driving new manufacturing
* Energy plan
* Digital economy
* Modest budget repair
* Improving service delivery and funding national security measures
* $189 million over five years to strengthen prevention and early-intervention efforts in family, domestic and sexual violence
* $104 million to prevent technology and devices being used to perpetrate or facilitate family, domestic and sexual violence
* $128.5 million reform package to provide greater certainty around environmental protection and streamline assessments
* Deregulation using international safety standards to save businesses $136 million a year
* Waiving of fees and taxes for reef-based industries over 2022/23 financial year
* Medicare to cost around $126 billion over four-year forward estimates
* Four-year rolling funding agreement and annual increases from July 1, 2023, for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services
* $61.2 million for the Australian Genomic Cancer Medical Centre to research and develop drugs for people with advanced cancers
* $315 million over four years to extend the national ice drug action strategy
* $700 million for regional health specialist training
* $375 million WA cancer centre
* Additional $52.3 million over four years for Lifeline services
* $58 million endometriosis package
* $206.5 million for youth mental health
* $365.3 million to support an extra 35,000 apprentices and trainees getting into jobs
* $6.4 billion for independent schools, growing to $8.5 billion by 2029
* $1.2 billion over four years for an expanded Transition to Work employment service for disadvantaged youth
* Support for Indigenous boarding students
* Expected temporary cut to fuel excise as much as 20 cents a litre
* ‘Targeted and proportionate’ cost of living relief, possibly cash payments for low and middle-income earners
* First-home buyer guarantee scheme expanded from 20,000 to 50,000 places a year
* Bring forward of child care subsidy changes from July 1 to March 7, to cost around $224 million in 2021/22 and $670 million a year ongoing
* Pension and welfare payments rise from March 20, benefiting 4.9 million people and costing the budget $2.2 billion extra over the year
* No bringing forward of high-end income tax cuts
* Extension of the 50 per cent reduction in minimum drawdown requirements until June 30, 2023, for self-funded retirees
* $1.85 billion in cash flow support for 2.3 million small businesses by lowering tax instalments in 2022/23
* $800 million over 10 years for strategic and scientific research and exploration in Antarctica
* $86 million forestry industry support in Tasmania
* $60 million for recycling modernisation
* National biosecurity strategy
* $10 billion over two decades set aside for an east coast submarine base in Queensland or NSW
* $4.3 billion to help build a new dry dock facility in Henderson, Western Australia, with construction to start in 2023
* Defence spending expected to be around 2.1 per cent of GDP
* $282 million in the Northern Territory for 34 capability projects, and maintenance and servicing work
* Support for Ukraine military forces
* Total spend to exceed $120 billion over decade
* Extra spending for states and territories: Queensland ($3.9 billion), NSW ($3.3 billion), Victoria ($3.3 billion), SA ($2.8 billion), WA ($2.1 billion), Tasmania ($639 million), ACT ($51 million), NT ($361 million)
* $500 million for Urannah dam in central Queensland
* $678 million for the sealing of 1000km of the Outback Way
* $2.26 billion for Adelaide’s North-South corridor motorway
* $40 million for bridges
* $74 million top-up for Perth city deal
* $668 million for southeast Queensland city deal
* $5.4 billion for Hells Gates dam in north Queensland
* Critical minerals industry to get $200 million Accelerator grants program, $50 million to support research and development, and an updated industry strategy
* $55.4 million for BlueScope Steel’s Advanced Steel Manufacturing Precinct around the Port Kembla steelworks
* Support for Moderna to build manufacturing plant for the production of mRNA vaccines.