News Feature

A ‘super’ sized investment in Aussie mums

BUDGET REACTION – The 2024 Federal Budget confirmed a ‘super-sized’ investment in Australian parents through the landmark reform to pay superannuation on Government Paid Parental Leave from July 1, 2025.

This represents ‘a major stride forward’ to help close the gender super gap and deliver a financially stronger retirement for Australian women, according to the Super Members Council.

Alongside a pledge to fund anticipated pay rises for workers in highly feminised industries in childcare and aged care, the paid parental leave superannuation plan will deliver millions of Australian women more money while they are working and in retirement.

According to the Super Members Council, Women in Australia still retire with about a third less super than men, despite living longer and retiring earlier on average. Retirement savings for women in their 30s is also going backwards proportionally.

Super Members Council CEO Misha Schubert said paying super on parental leave would boost the savings of a mother-of-two by about $14,500 by retirement – with 180,000 Australian families set to benefit each year.

“The historic announcement to pay super on parental leave takes Australia another major stride closer to ending the financial motherhood penalty many women face when they have children,” Ms Schubert said. 

“It’s a watershed reform that will powerfully strengthen retirement savings for Australian mums and help to narrow the gender gap at retirement.

“The anticipated pay rises for the highly feminised early childhood education and aged care workforces are also key changes to help close the retirement savings gap for Australian women.

“These are big steps on the road to gender equity – and the government has signalled it intends to continue that work. Australia cannot rest until all women have a financially secure retirement.”

Lower rates of pay for feminised industries are a key driver of the gender super gap, Ms Schubert said.

Anticipated pay rises for Australia’s female-dominated workforces in aged care and early education – expected to flow from imminent decisions in the Fair Work Commission – will help tackle gender inequity at retirement.  

Last year’s Federal Budget announced a commitment to deliver payday super reforms from July 1, 2026. An estimated 2.8 million working people in Australia are underpaid a total of $4.7 billion a year in super. 

Ms Schubert said those reforms would require super to be paid to people’s super accounts when they are paid their wages – rather than just four times a year.

“Consultation on the design of these important reforms is ongoing,” she said.

The 2024 Federal Budget pledges $60 million over four years to boost the Productivity, Education and Training Fund – to bring employer and worker representatives together to work on measures to boost productivity – and help workplaces prepare to implement policy changes such as payday super.

Ahead of payday super commencing, the 2024 Budget includes support for new small business cashflow, with $25 million to speed payment times and $290 million in cashflow support.  

“Unpaid super costs workers $1,700 a year on average – and our modelling shows payday super reforms could add up to $36,000 to the retirement balances of the lowest 20 percent of wage earners,” Ms Schubert said.

The 2024 Budget unveils a further $6.2 billion investment in social and affordable housing, including $1 billion to help States and Territories to deliver new housing by connecting essential services such as water, power, sewerage and roads, plus 20,000 new fee-free TAFE places in building trades.

Expanding the supply of housing is urgently required to get more Australians into their own home, Ms Schubert said

“This Budget announces a $2.7 million lift over four years – and $700,000 a year ongoing – to governance of the system that transmits data on super contributions between employers and super funds,” Ms Schubert said.

The Budget also provides for a 12-month extension to freeze deeming rates for people on Government support payments – including 450,000 retirees reliant on a part aged pension.

The Super Members Council provides a strong voice advocating for more than 11 million Australians who have over $1.5 trillion in retirement savings managed by profit-to-member superannuation funds. The council’s aim is to protect and advance their members’ interests throughout their lives, advocating on their behalf to ensure superannuation policy is stable, effective, and equitable.

“We produce rigorous research and analysis and work with Parliamentarians and policy makers across the full breadth of Parliament,” Ms Schubert said.

www.smcaustralia.com

Table 1: Gender super gap by age and median balances (2020/21)

Age

Female

Male

Gender gap ($)

Gender gap (%)

20s

$10,500

$11,000

$500

4%

30s

$48,500

$60,400

$11,900

20%

40s

$94,000

$136,100

$42,100

31%

50s

$134,900

$205,600

$70,700

34%

60s

$175,600

$240,900

$65,300

27%

20-64

$54,100

$72,500

$18,400

25%

 Source: SMC analysis of the ATO 2020-21 2% sample file.

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Federal Budget makes first step in desperately needed university reform – NTEU

BUDGET REACTION -- The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has described the Federal Budget as a first step on the road to major reform universities desperately need.

The Federal Government has earmarked $1.1 billion in funding over the next five years to implement recommendations from the Universities Accord.

NTEU national president Alison Barnes said more investment would be needed to combat a sector in crisis. 

“This budget must be the first step on the road to the major reforms needed to combat the explosion in insecure work, rampant wage theft and a broken governance model,” Dr Barnes said.

“It’s clear the government takes the Universities Accord’s final report seriously, but we’ll need to see a much more ambitious response to properly address the deep problems in higher education.

“Staff must have a seat at the table in overseeing what must be the most significant university reforms in a generation.

“We have proudly fought alongside student unions for measures to ease student debt so it’s welcome to see those calls beginning to be answered in the budget,” Dr Barnes said.

“We need the government to be upfront about what its plan to slow the growth of international student numbers means for university funding.

“Already-stretched university staff simply can’t afford more funding cuts after a disastrous decade under the coalition.

“The Australian Tertiary Education Commission has the potential to improve our sector but only if staff are truly represented when it is established in mid-next year,” she said.

“The NTEU will ramp up its fight for better universities, which serve Australia’s best interests for generations to come.”

www.nteu.au

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Climate Council hails budget billions for green industry, no new money for gas

BUDGET REACTION – The Climate Council has described the 2024-25 Federal Budget as “a decisive turn towards Australia’s clean energy future”.

By earmarking billions of investment in coming years to grow clean industries such as critical minerals, renewable hydrogen and clean energy manufacturing, the Federal Government is charting a course to power past the end of fossil fuels,Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said.

“Gas and coal are not part of the budget’s vision for a Future Made in Australia, underlining that our next era of prosperity can be built on cleaner foundations,” Ms McKenzie said. “This is an essential signal across our entire economy. 

“Building a renewable future and clean industrial base will deliver good jobs and greater prospects for Australians. This is critical to slash climate pollution and protect our kids' future.

“The budget makes an important and overdue opening bid to claim our place as one of the world’s clean energy market leaders,” she said.

“Both sides of politics should back this vision for Australia. It’s not political, it is for our kids.”

Climate Council head of policy and advocacy Jennifer Rayner said, “To make these budget investments work, we now need two things: stronger policies to get all parts of our economy pulling in the same pollution-free direction, and clear bipartisan commitment to seize Australia’s clean energy potential.

“The investments in this budget will need to ramp up in the next term of government and beyond,” Dr Rayner said. “All political parties must now make clear that Australia is open for clean business with good new jobs, no matter who is in charge.”

 The Climate Council is Australia’s community-funded climate change communications organisation, providing authoritative, expert and evidence-based advice on climate change to journalists, policymakers, and the wider Australian community.

climatecouncil.org.au  facebook.com/climatecouncil  x.com/climatecouncil

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Constructors welcome Federal Budget support for low carbon liquid fuel industry

BUDGET REACTION -- the Australian Constructors Association (ACA) has welcomed the Australian Government’s plans, announced in the Federal Budget, to support a low-carbon liquid fuel industry with a focus on renewable diesel to support emissions reduction in the construction industry.

ACA CEO Jon Davies said the construction industry was a “hard to abate” sector and while electrification was the preferred decarbonisation pathway, technology constraints meant this would not be available in the short to medium term.

“(The budget) announcement will help ensure low carbon liquid fuels bridge the gap until electric options mature and renewable diesel is the best way to achieve this in the construction industry,” Mr Davies said. 

“Renewable diesel enables necessary emission reductions in the short term without modifications to existing machinery.

“A domestic renewable diesel industry will have a range of additional benefits beyond construction decarbonisation, including lower air pollutants and better air quality, energy security, local employment and economic growth from both feedstock and refining.”

Mr Davies said the Australian Constructors Association had been advocating for this support and looked forward to working collaboratively with the Australian Government “to progress the establishment of a renewable diesel in Australia”.

For more information, view the Australian Constructors Association’s position paper on Renewable diesel.

The Australian Constructors Association is the representative body for contractors delivering vertical and horizontal construction projects, as well as undertaking infrastructure asset management. ACA members construct and service the majority of major infrastructure projects built in Australia every year.

“Our goal is to create a more sustainable construction industry,” Mr Davies said.

www.constructors.com.au

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ATSE says Aussie science and innovation needs ‘immediate and sustained investment’ to power local manufacturing

BUDGET REACTION – The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) has welcomed Federal Budget commitments to review Australia's languishing investment in Australian science and innovation and back clean energy industries. But ATSE warns investment “can’t be kicked further down the road”. 

ATSE CEO Kylie Walker said Australia lags behind the US, Japan and Germany, “who all spend more than 3 percent of their GDP on the research and development which powers their economies”. She said ultimately, Australia’s investment in R&D would make or break the Future Made In Australia investments announced in the budget. 

Ms Walker welcomed the Federal Government’s strong commitment to developing Australia’s clean energy system “which will power the industries and jobs of the future”. 

“Investments in battery manufacturing, renewable green hydrogen production and critical minerals processing are central to the nation’s net zero ambitions,” she said. “These are areas where we have a comparative advantage in the global supply chain and which are fundamental for the jobs of the future. 

“However, it is critical for the government to recognise that developing these industries requires innovations that will only come from a strong and well-funded science and technology sector.  

“ATSE also welcomes the announced review of Australia’s research and development system, as recommended in ATSE’s pre-budget submission. It is critical that this work gets underway to make up for lost time and to bring Australia closer to nations at the forefront of technological innovation,” Ms Walker said.  

ATSE also supports the $1.1 billion over five years for the first stage reforms of the Universities Accord, with a focus on equity and access to higher education. This includes the already announced measures to pay for selected student placements and limit the indexation of HECS-HELP loans. 

“We welcome the development of a needs-based funding system which supports students who would typically miss out on a university education,” Ms Walker said. “We look forward to working with the government to design this system in a way that supports under-represented students and prepares the STEM workforce of the future.  

“ATSE welcomes support for teaching students to undertake their unpaid work placements, and urges the Government to extend this support to university engineering students – in recognition of the dire shortage in engineers, whose skills will be critical to the clean energy transition,” Ms Walker said. 

ATSE has also listed and welcomed a range of measures announced in the latest Federal Budget: 

Decarbonisation 

$63.8 million over 10 years from 2024–25 to support agricultural and land-based emission reductions;

An additional $76.2 million over five years from 2023–24 to support Australia’s engagement in international climate change and energy transition issues, and a bid to co-host COP31 in partnership with the Pacific. 

$399.1 million over five years for the Net Zero Economy Authority, including workforce transition support.  

Water and environment

Funding over five years from 2023–24 to continue implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan;  

$174.6 million over six years from 2024–25 to deliver new water infrastructure projects, and $26.1 million for First nations water infrastructure projects;

Education and skills 

$91.0 million to develop the clean energy workforce;

$10.0 million in 2025–26 to establish a National Hydrogen Technology Skills Training Centre;

As part of Universities Accord reforms, $27.7 million to break down barriers between higher and vocational education;

$38.2 million for programs to increase diversity in STEM.

$101.8 million over seven years from 2024–25 to build a workforce to support the delivery of Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines; 

$33.5 million over six years for initiatives aimed at enhancing domestic industry and workforce capacity;

$4.4 million in 2024-25 for Vocational Education and Training support, including the creation of 15,000 fee-free TAFE places and 5,000 places for pre-apprenticeships; 

$18.7 million over four years from 2024–25 (and an additional $28.8 million from 2028–29 to 2034–35) to introduce a National Higher Education Code responding to gender-based violence;

$55.6 million to launch the Building Women’s Careers program to create structural and cultural change in male-dominated workplaces. 

Industry and research 

$549 million over eight years for support of battery manufacturing and $20.3 million over five years for the Powering Australia Industry Growth Centre and Future Battery CRC; 

$7.1 billion over 11 years in critical minerals processing tax incentives;  

$8 billion in renewable hydrogen tax incentives over 10 years; 

$6.8 million over two years to support the offshore oil and gas decommissioning strategy;

Extension of the Global Science and Technology Diplomacy Fund into the forward estimates;

An additional $1.4 billion over 13 years from 2024–25 through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to continue to invest in life-saving medical research in Australia;

$18.8 million over two years from 2024–25 to continue the development of the National One Stop Shop for Clinical Trials and Human Research. 

Digital technologies

$39.9 million to support the safe and responsible adoption and use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology; 

$68 million for First Nations Digital Inclusion including the role out of WiFi for remote communities and a First Nations Digital Support Hub.

  

Read ATSE's Pre-Budget Submission.

www.atse.org.au

 

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HIA: Support for employers and employees a step closer to achieving 1.2 million homes

BUDGET REACTION – The Housing Industry Association (HIA) has commended the Federal Government’s latest Budget with bringing Australia closer to building 1.2 million new homes.

“Tonight’s Budget included a key measure in the continuation of financial incentives for employers to take on an apprentice,” HIA managing director, Jocelyn Martin said.

“Without an employer, there is no apprentice and the financial incentives that have been in place have proved invaluable to helping the construction industry to access more workers,” she said 

“The Housing Industry Association sought the continuation of these incentives. The shortage of skilled trades remains more acute than at any time prior to the pandemic and is a barrier to increasing supply of new homes.

“The Federal Government’s $11.3 billion ‘Homes for Australia’ Plan and commitment of $90.6 million to support fee-free training for apprentices, pre-apprenticeships and skills assessments for overseas workers, will assist in addressing the shortage of skilled trades people and increasing supply,” she said.

“The boost to investment in more social, affordable and community housing alongside infrastructure and skills funding boosts is another contribution to increasing the supply of homes.

“The $1 billion towards unlocking key infrastructure delivery by states and territories including water, electricity, sewer infrastructure is an important step to unlocking land for new homes.

“HIA has called on the government to double its infrastructure funding for states and local councils to enable them to get homes shovel ready faster, so it is pleasing to see this included in the budget, “ Ms Martin said

www.hia.com.au

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Budget a ‘promising downpayment’ on Australia’s cleantech future

BUDGET REACTION - THE CLIMATE Energy Finance (CEF) organisation has given ticks to the Federal Government’s Budget announcements of $21 billion in new funding initiatives under the Future Made in Australia Act strategic framework – plus the $1bn Solar SunShot and $466 million PsiQuantum funding.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ 2024-2025 Federal Budget also announced a range of key initiatives including a new $7bn Critical Minerals value-adding Production Tax Credit (PTC), $3.2bn in additional funding for ARENA technology commercialisation and a $6.7bn Hydrogen Production Tax Incentive and $1.3bn of additional Hydrogen Headstart funding. The hydrogen funding is expected to be focussed on domestic use programs such as ‘green’ metals.

CEF also highlighted the budget’s $209m into the Net Zero Economy Authority, $168m to prioritise approval decisions for renewable projects of national significance, a $500m Battery Breakthrough Initiative and $14m to strengthen high-quality critical minerals benchmarks with trade partners.

There is also $179m in additional employment and skills supports for regions, plus $56m in the Building Women’s Careers program and $91m to accelerate the development of the clean energy workforce while also expanding the New Energy Apprenticeship Program. Significantly, there is also $777m for a strong First Nations workforce participation and development program. 

The implementation of the Future Made in Australia Act (FMIA) will be guided by a framework comprising: 1. A 'net zero transformation' stream, where Australia has grounds to build enduring comparative advantage; and 2. the ‘economic security and resilience’ stream, which will identify sectors that are critical to our resilience and vulnerable to supply disruptions. 

Five industries are highlighted as aligned with the National Interest Framework: Renewable hydrogen; Critical minerals processing; Green metals; Low carbon liquid fuels; Clean energy manufacturing, including battery and solar panel supply chains.

The Federal Government will establish a ‘new front door for investors’ with major, transformational investment proposals related to Future Made in Australia to make it simpler to invest in Australia and attract more global and domestic capital. This is a strategically important initiative – collaboration with global technology leaders is going to be key to FMIA’s success.

Business and finance analyst Tim Buckley, who is the founder and director of CEF said, “CEF has been calling for $100bn of capital and budget support over the coming decade to accelerate and turbocharge the development of zero-emissions industries of the future here in Australia. In tonight’s Budget we saw an excellent $21bn down-payment.

“It is great to see that this is additional funding, not the usual political trick of rehashing previous press releases.

“The development of the production tax credit (PTC) model for critical minerals and green hydrogen to incentivise onshore value-adding is a very strong step forward, a clear acknowledgement that Australia can’t simply leave it to free markets when other countries have made such significant public interest interventions, undermining global trade. 

“This will leverage Energy Minister (Chris) Bowen’s 82% Renewables by 2030 initiative, turbocharged by the 32GW Capacity Investment Scheme which is driving the rollout of utility scale firmed renewables by underpinning and catalysing private investment, meaning Australia can power our refineries with renewable energy so as to export embodied decarbonisation,” Mr Buckey said.

“The world is in a rapidly accelerating technology, trade and finance decarbonisation race to the top as the global energy transition speeds up. This is Australia’s biggest investment, employment, and export opportunity in a century to reorient from our fossil fuel reliant past, but we clearly needed this budget to respond strategically, proportionally and fast, which it has done.

“(This) budget shows a government that understands both this imperative to act to transition Australia to its future as a clean, green superpower and the opportunity cost and risks of not acting to secure Australia’s place in the new net zero world economy.

“The over $9bn (budget) surplus … shows this government’s financial credentials. Now they are starting to show us the money,” he said.

“While tonight’s result is pleasing, we would encourage the government to consider more  ambitious capital support in future budgets to massively accelerate renewable energy and electrify everything; stimulate value-adding onshore of our world leading critical mineral and metals resources; and rebuild our manufacturing base so we can make things here and secure our position in cleantech supply chain. This will attract an influx of private capital to energy transition.

“CEF will continue to advocate for more patient, strategic capital support, in terms of debt, private equity, infrastructure and equity to support majority Australian ownership and de-risk private capital. 

“The 2023 Budget allocation of $15bn to the National Reconstruction Fund is a serious downpayment, and rapidly getting established, as is the $20bn Rewiring the Nation funding support into the CEFC.

“We applaud the extra $3.2bn funding into ARENA, but continue to call on the government to give the Future Fund a $20bn value-add equity mandate for mining value-adding, to leverage the new investments galvanised by the combination of the $4bn Critical Minerals Fund, $7bn critical minerals PTC, $6.7bn Hydrogen Production Tax Incentive and the 32GW Capacity Investment Scheme.

“We note the reference to leveraging Export Finance Australia’s National Interest Account, expanded to support for projects where domestic capability is critical to protect our national security interests.

“We particularly note the absence of any additional stimulus on ‘electrifying everything’, and only $28m of new funding to better integrate consumer energy resources into the grid. This is disappointing when household electrification and grid modernisation is key to cheap, clean, secure energy for all Australians. $3.5bn in new energy bill relief for households will help offset a fraction of the fossil fuel sector hyperinflation.

“Australia must play the energy transition long game, but front-load it this decade, as the climate crisis heats up and as every other advanced economy in the world commits unprecedented investment into decarbonisation to ensure national and energy security and shore up sovereign supply chains,” Mr Buckley said.

“We are hopeful that this … emphatic entry of Australia into the global race is a harbinger of the government’s intention to seize its once in a century opportunity to remake Australia as a zero-emissions trade and investment leader, and reap the massive economic, employment and climate benefits for all Australians into the future.”

www.climateenergyfinance.org

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