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Budget 2023: Albanese’s broken promise leaves young Aussies on struggle street

This Budget has tax breaks for the wealthy and submarines but not much for young people in financial distress.

Composite budget image of hands holding open an empty wallet, and a male university student.
The budget has left many young Australians searching for answers. (Source: Getty)

Millions of young Australians turned out to vote for Labor with the promise of “a better future”, but this promise has already been broken by the government in this week’s federal budget.

Despite the government’s own Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee recommending an increase to support payments of 22 per cent - which would have pushed Youth Allowance from approximately $563 to $684 a fortnight - Labor’s budget committed to raising Youth Allowance by just $40 a fortnight, or $2.80 a day.

That $2.80 won’t even buy you a loaf of bread. This insulting increase will keep Australia’s students in poverty.

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This government has made a choice in this budget to leave behind young Australians and other vulnerable communities, for the sake of tax cuts for the already wealthy and submarines that won’t exist for two decades. This will be cold comfort for the huge numbers of young people who are already struggling to live.

We know that, each day, thousands of students are making the tough decision to either show up to class or take a shift to keep a roof over their head. Students are being forced into extending their degree just to put food on the table, or graduate with lower education outcomes.

Students facing poverty

The National Union of Students, in partnership with the Foundation for Young Australians, recently released a report into student poverty in Australia. More than 70 per cent of those surveyed said the intersecting crises of high rent costs, casual work, and cost-of-living pressures made it very difficult for students to study full-time and find enough work to financially support themselves.

And yet, with this budget, the government has chosen once again to keep young Australians receiving Youth Allowance well below the poverty line.

While we welcome a 15 per cent increase to Rent Assistance, this will leave students with only $31 extra a fortnight towards rent, and no better off than they were a year ago in the face of escalating rent costs. Housing data shows that, in the 12 months to April, rental prices for a unit in Sydney or Melbourne have increased by almost 25 per cent.

HECS rise will only make things worse

I am deeply concerned by the budget's failure to address the issue of student debt or respond to calls to freeze HECS indexation. At 7.1 per cent, the HECS indexation rate continues to burden young Australians and exacerbate the student-debt crisis.

The total value of HECS loans will increase by $4.5 billion on June 1, with the average debt projected to increase by $1,700. Young Australians will likely be one of the most indebted generations in history, and it is unacceptable that the government will make more profit this year from the student loan system than they will from their changes to the Petroleum Resources Rent Tax (PRRT).

Labor’s refusal to meaningfully raise Youth Allowance or Rent Assistance, temporarily freeze HECS indexation or take any real steps to support struggling young Australians is a direct attack on the nation’s future. This budget reveals a government in denial about why it was elected, and by who.

After an election campaign full of slogans, the radio silence towards young Australians in this budget is deafening. For young people, the promise of “a better future” has been replaced by the cold reality of escalating economic inequality.

We voted for a government that would invest in Australia’s young people, and yet we have been thrown crumbs. Once again, it is young Australians who have been left to pay the price.

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