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2020-21 COVID budget – what it means

7 October 20200 comments

There are significant implications in the 2020-21 federal budget for Australia’s migration and refugee settlement programs with population growth set to fall to its lowest level in a century.

The number of refugee places available will drop by about 5,500 and the budget estimates a net population fall of about 72,000 next year. About a million fewer people are forecast to live in Australia by the end of 2022.

After two years of negative migration, Australia will see 201,000 extra arrivals in 2023-24, according to the budget papers.  

The nation’s humanitarian intake will be reduced to 13,750 in 2020-21, with some flexible arrangements possible among onshore and offshore categories. There are also funding cuts to the humanitarian program amounting to almost $1 billion over four years.

The budget provides $12.7 million over two years from 2020-21 to the Department of Home Affairs to improve integration outcomes for humanitarian entrants through the extension of the existing Youth Transition Support and Youth Hub Programs.

There is also a $123 million provision for investing in improvements in employment outcomes for humanitarian entrants through reforms to the Adult Migrant English program (AMEP).

The budget also outlines reforms planned or settlement services and the Community Sponsorship Program, which could mean more refugees arriving with sponsorship.

The Government will maintain the 2020-21 migration program planning level, or cap, at 160,000 places but the allocation of visa categories will change with the potential for more on onshore applicants to be offered permanent places.

Family Stream places will increase from 47,732 to 77,300 places on a one-off basis for the 2020-21 migration program year, and ‘Employer Sponsored’, ‘Global Talent’, ‘Business Innovation’ and ‘Investment Program’ visas will be prioritised within the Skilled Stream. ‘Global Talent’ places will rise from 5000 to 15000. This amounts to extra spending worth $320 million.

Temporary visa holders (prospective marriage, Pacific labour scheme or seasonal workers) affected by the COVID travel ban will have fees waived (to return once travel restrictions have been lifted) or refunded, at a total cost of $275 million over the next four years

Onshore visa applicants and Partner visa applicants where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area will also be prioritised for the 2020-21 Migration Program.

The family stream program has been doubled with higher allocation for partner visas. However, they will be introducing English language requirements for both the visa applicant and the sponsor.

The budget provides: $37.3 million over four years to promote Australian values, identity and social cohesion, and counter malign information online; $17.7 million over four years to enhance engagement with multicultural  communities, and; $7.9 million over four years to establish a research program to inform initiatives to strengthen social

But spending on support for people seeking asylum seems to have been halved with just $19.6 million earmarked for 2020-21.

Other measures include:

A $1.2bn COVID-19 support program for businesses to employ more 100,000 apprentices and trainees and 50,000 new in six-month courses as part of funding for 340,000 new training places.

$17 billion to give 11 million Australians thousands of dollars in tax cuts the average family receiving $2160 extra year

Pensioners will receive two $250 payments next year.

An extra $1 billion in bonds to community housing providers.

$200 a week ‘Jobmaker’ wage subsidy for employers taking on an unemployed person under a $4 billion scheme aimed at creating 450,000 jobs.

1.7 billion over the next two years to provide access to up to 84.8 million doses of the University of Queensland and University of Oxford vaccines currently in testing.

$1.1 billion this year for COVID-19 related healthcare, including $711.7 million to extend MBS item funding for detection and $170.8 million to extend funding of dedicated COVID-19 clinics.

$1.1 billion this year in additional funding to continue paying private hospitals to supplement public hospital capacity and fund state hospitals.

$798.8 million in additional NDIS funding over the next four years.

A $10 billion infrastructure building plan to create jobs and upgrade roads and railways.

Bottom line numbers

$507 billion in tax cuts.

$214 billion deficit this year.

Unemployment to peak at 8 per cent in December.

Debt to reach $1 trillion or 44 per cent of GDP in 2023-24.

Economic growth to return to 3 per cent of GDP in 2024-25