Federal budget advances key priorities for Professionals Australia

Friday 12 May 2023

According to Professionals Australia the Federal Budget strikes a balance between managing a difficult fiscal and economic climate, providing vital cost of living relief and investing in long-term growth opportunities for STEM professionals working in priority industries such as energy, advanced manufacturing and defence.

The Budget has invested in measures that will ensure a just transition to clean energy, create a fairer industrial relations system and improve gender equality in the workforce. Strategic investments have been made in construction, emerging knowledge-based industries, renewable energy, advanced manufacturing and defence, with STEM skills funding underpinning these national priorities.

Professionals Australia CEO Jill McCabe said there was a lot of good news in the budget, even if fiscal restraint worked against a bigger investment in infrastructure, as well as research and development.

“The budget shows short term projected economic growth, but then we’re going to face a challenging period with growth below historical levels so investments will be needed in growth industries to stimulate the economy beyond the immediate high-inflation period,” Ms McCabe said.

“A $4 billion investment in renewable energy brings the Government’s total investment to more than $40 billion for the sector, plus a new Capacity Investment Scheme will unlock over $10 billion of investment in firmed-up renewable energy projects.

“There is a $2 billion investment in hydrogen to put Australia at the forefront of this economic opportunity and this is big news for engineers in related industries.

“These are all welcome investments, especially for our members working in the energy sector.”

Outside of the energy portfolio, Ms McCabe welcomed investments in knowledge-based industries and more than $11 billion more for defence over the next four years, including the Government’s commitment to the AUKUS agreement as a key investment in advanced manufacturing. This is supported with $5 billion for STEM skills development to ensure AUKUS jobs are local jobs.

“The focus on knowledge sectors and defence aligns with our priorities for industries that rely heavily on the STEM skills base. Stimulating the construction sector is also a big plus with $2 billion for social and affordable housing and incentives for build-to-rent projects.”

Ms McCabe said she was particularly pleased the Government’s recent industrial relations reforms and now the establishment of a Net Zero Authority.

“This was a priority for our members so that the transition to a low carbon economy is well planned and coordinated, the voices of affected workers and communities are heard and shape the future and that secure, well-paid green jobs are available in strong and diversified local economies,” she said.

“A $3.7 billion five‑year national skills agreement with the states and territories is also long overdue is also good news.”

Other key priorities for Professionals Australia include reinvesting in the public service and public sector, addressing the gender imbalance in STEM professions and supporting pharmacy in regional communities.

On pharmacy, Ms McCabe said the budget has invested in community pharmacy programs to support pharmacists to work to their full scope of practice and to help more Australians access affordable clinical services through community pharmacy.

“Professional Pharmacists Australia which is part of PA is working through the pharmacy sector reforms with the Government and prioritising the interests of workers in community pharmacy.

“The investment in pharmacy under the National Immunisation Program is a good start in recognising the bigger role pharmacists play in primary health care and we want to ensure the reforms in health care and pharmacy are supported with investments in the pharmacy workforce.”

Ms McCabe also said the budget’s focus on relieving cost of living pressures was welcome, especially for people who are most in need.

“Energy bill rebates, increases in some income support payments and the historic investment in Medicare are important first steps to support people in our community who need it most, but more action is required to reduce poverty and inequality in our community.   

“Overall, it’s a sound budget. Our strategic priorities are of course long-term and need to be addressed over multiple budgets, particularly given the delicate fiscal context.”

Media Contact: Tim O'Halloran 0409 059 617