Amidst the heated rhetoric over taxes and the best way to achieve a surplus, one area of the federal budget may be getting overlooked: grants.
What sort of government support will innovative businesses have to look forward to for the coming fiscal year?
There are hardly any funding increases in the 2011-12 budget, which a private grant funding agency calls an exercise in “reshuffling the deck cards.”
According to the report released by GrantReady, the government’s grant strategy can look downright stingy.
The Gillard Government is planning $2.5 billion in cuts to environmental grant programs alone. While some of the funding is being redirected towards disaster relief efforts, much of it is simply being deferred.
“The promised environmental measures for business seem to be missing,” the group observes, while conceding that “it is likely that the full measure of environmental assistance will be announced with details of the carbon tax” which has not been factored into the budget.
The cuts come as part of a plan to reach a budget surplus by 2012, one of Labor’s key promises in the run-up to last year’s election.
The future does look bright for businesses in the areas of training and skills development, thanks to the Building Australia’s Future Workforce initiative. Apart from this highlight, “The rest of the budget seems to be a reshuffling exercise aimed at incurring no additional expense. Even programs cut last budget are counted as savings again, without much to replace them.”
Closer look: Training & Development
- $500 million in funding has been allocated for Building Australia’s Future Workforce, which will include over 130,000 training places. The focus will be on new employment services and assistance, apprentice incentives and disability assistance.
- 16,000 skilled immigrants will be sourced to address skill shortages.
- The large employment and training program, Innovation Fund, has been closed along with the Productivity Places Program.
Environment & Renewable Energy
The Budget has provided reductions in funding for renewable energy research and assistance programs while at the same time creating new programs, including:
- National CO2 Infrastructure Plan: $60.9 million
- USA – Australia Solar Research Collaboration: $50 million
Continued programs with additional funding:
- Emerging Renewables (through ACRE): $104 million
- Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund (through ACRE): $108.7 Million
- Solar Cities: $13.7 million
- A Cleaner Future for Power Stations: $4 million
Redirected or reduced funding:
- Green Car Innovation Fund
- Cleaner Car Rebate
- Carbon Capture & Storage Flagships
- Global Carbon Capture & Storage
- Low Emissions Coal Initiative
- The budget provides $1.8 billion over six years from the Health and Hospitals Fund (HHF) to support the development of health infrastructure in regional areas.
- There is also a focus on the sustainability of regional cities with support for universities ($500m), affordable housing, infrastructure and public services.
- An additional $28 million has been provided to the Regional Aviation Access Program to continue to assist with regional airport upgrades to airstrips and infrastructure.