English tests for partner visas
New measures announced under the ‘migration program’ will see mandatory English language test requirements for anyone applying for a partner visa. The measure has been criticised as unnecessary and an additional hurdle for prospective migrants – and contrary to Australia’s status as a multicultural society.
No additional funding for family violence services
The Government has failed to commit further funding to family violence on top of the previously announced $150 million support package. Just $2.6 million has been allocated towards a court scheme to assist victims of family violence in family law proceedings. Although additional funding for domestic and family violence support has been earmarked, no funding amount has been committed, instead labelled ‘not for publication’.
As of September 2020, 37 women have died in Australia this year due to family violence, according to research by Counting Dead Women Australia and Destroy The Joint.
Minimal funding for Indigenous groups and services
Just $46.5 million has been allocated over four years to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations prepare for the next phase of Closing the Gap. In addition, $150 million over three years will go towards home loans for new housing construction in regional Australia.
Indigenous organisations have welcomed some funding commitments, but criticised the lack of financial support for Closing the Gap Targets and the level of funding for Indigenous legal services, health clinics and social housing.
Christmas Island detention funding
The North West Point detention facility on Christmas Island has been reactivated with a cost of $55.6 million this financial year. No funding exists for the new centre beyond 2021 – people detained there will likely be deported as soon as COVID-19 international border restrictions ease.
Blue carbon blues
Climate change again fell by the wayside, receiving $4.2 million to support engagement with the International Partnership for Blue Carbon and the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit out of the total $47.4 million for “Supporting Healthy Oceans”. Degraded blue carbon ecosystems release large quantities of greenhouse gases and are being lost globally. The continued degradation of blue carbon ecosystems and Australia’s lax land clearing regulations warrant more than just $4.2 million to attend international conferences.
Uranium and nuclear clean-up continues
The Rum Jungle uranium mine requires continued clean-up of its environmental mess near Darwin. Rum Jungle was Australia’s first large scale uranium mine, built to support UK and USA nuclear weapons program in the 1950s. Energy Resources Australia has already spent $642 million rehabilitating the mine, and this year’s Budget provides an additional $3.5 million over two years.
Clean up will also continue at the British nuclear testing site on Maralinga Tjarutja land in South Australia with $2.5 million over four years.
Another resources top-up
Just in case unlocking five new gas basins for a gas-fired recovery was not enough, the Government handed over an additional $124.5 million to Geosciences Australia to continue the Exploring for the Future program to expand it beyond northern Australia, nationwide. Which parts of Australia might play host to the next oil and gas expansion? As the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said, “over 80 per cent of Australia is still underexplored”.
Taxpayer funds for oil ‘lighthouse’
A former Woodside disused oil rig in the Timor Sea will receive an undisclosed amount of taxpayer funding. The vessel has been costing $4 million a month to maintain minimum crew for safety standards since it closed in February, and although the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources deputy secretary Mike Lawson said in March “we have no reason to believe we can’t find a better solution to this than … a cost being imposed on the taxpayer”, it seems that is exactly what is happening.