Budget 2023

Common Grace National Director Gershon Nimbalker reflects on Budget 2023 and the impact on our key justice areas.

Budgets, whether federal or household budgets are always a statement of values. Making choices about what we invest and what we don’t reveals what drives us. As followers of Jesus, committed to seeing the flourishing of all people and all creation – we know it's important to understand the priorities of our nation and continue to engage our friends, our families our communities and our decision makers about how we can build a fairer, more just, more sustainable nation. This budget is a far cry from that vision, but it is moving us in the right direction.

The 2023 Budget is a clear statement that with a new government, the priorities of our nation has shifted. Support for the most vulnerable including single mothers and those exiting domestic violence, tangible action on climate change, a shift in our posture towards asylum seekers and action towards sustained progress on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice are all evident in this year's budget.

While in most areas these investments fail to meet the scale of need, the progress and posture is one we are grateful for.

On Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice, beyond investing in the upcoming referendum on Voice, the government is working with First Nations people to achieve practical and substantial outcomes that help build a better future for communities.

This includes $1.9 billion worth of funding for better healthcare, cultural preservation, justice initiatives, economic empowerment and housing, including $99 million of dedicated funding for a specific Northern Territory strategy.

The budget contained mixed news for Australia’s approach to people seeking asylum. On a positive note, it provided further clarity to February’s announcement that around 20,000 people seeking asylum on temporary protection and safe-haven visas would be supported as they moved to permanent settlement and stability in Australia. It also provided additional funding for faster visa processing, dedicated support for people coming from Ukraine, and provisions for support services for youth, mental health, and those that have experienced trauma or domestic violence.

Sadly however, the government is yet to indicate when it will start increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake after it was slashed by the former Government. The Albanese Labor Government have committed to double our current intake to 27,000 plus an additional 5,000 community supported places – but this is yet to appear in policy.

In addition, Australia’s support for displaced people overseas and contributions to international stability are still languishing at historically low levels. There has been no additional funding for humanitarian assistance, and while the government has stabilised the aid program after a decade of cuts, aid as a percentage of GDP will continue to fall for the foreseeable future, entrenching Australia as one of the least generous aid donors in the world.

Like with refugees, the budget affirms that we are in a new era when it comes to taking meaningful steps to address climate change, but far more needs to be done to address the enormity of the problem.

Significant funds have been dedicated to building a domestic renewable hydrogen industry. Australia is one of the sunniest and windiest places on earth, developing renewable hydrogen will help Australia become a clean energy superpower. The more than $2 billion of funding included a welcome $2 million commitment to support First Nations communities to engage with these projects.

There was also more clarity on the recently announced national net-zero authority, with $83.2 million allocated to its operations. This new body will ensure that all Australians benefit from our transition to a clean energy future and is a welcomed commitment in response to the many voices across Australia who have been calling for this clear action, including our wonderful Knit for Climate Action advocates who called for a coordinated government approach to transition our energy sector to net-zero emissions as they met with our Parliamentary representatives to gift scarves.

The government also announced investments to help homes and small businesses improve energy efficiency and invest in renewable energy infrastructure.

Sadly the government has failed to invest in providing climate support to our international neighbours and the Pacific, including making a contribution to the newly established global loss and damage fund.

The news for those exiting or surviving domestic violence was more positive. One of the most significant measures was making it possible for single mothers with older children to receive the single parenting payment. 91% of parents on this payment are women, and research suggests 60% have experienced domestic violence. Previously, single parents would only be eligible for the inadequately low Jobseeker payment once their youngest child turned 8, they are now eligible to receive the higher parenting payment until their child reaches the age of 14.

In addition to this, the government has announced a further $590 million for the end violence against women strategy, with $194million being specifically allocated for supporting first nation’s women.

This budget, like many before it, demonstrates the ability of our government to channel our collective energy and resources to address difficult problems. Government is of course never the whole solution to a problem, but good government makes a difference. It’s why our advocacy and our engagement is so important. I’m inspired by the people within our movement, and reminded of our power to affect change. The kind of change that shapes this world to be a little bit more like the one God intends, a world where all flourish and experience God’s Common Grace.

Gershon Nimbalker is the National Director of Common Grace and founder of Sojourners Social Change Consultants. He has more than 15 years of experience working in advocacy, policy and research, as well as leading and growing grass roots movements to campaign on issues of social justice.