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Federal budget wins and losses: Comments from industry leaders

By Jack Campbell | |10 minute read
Federal Budget Wins And Losses Comments From Industry Leaders

The federal budget has come and gone, with a variety of inclusions outlining how the government plans to spend in the coming year. While many are pleased with the initiatives, equally as many aren’t impressed with the omissions.

Below is a collation of opinions from industry leaders, discussing the wins and losses of the 2024–25 federal budget.

What the federal budget failed to address

  1. Productivity

Jarrod McGrath, Smart WFM chief executive, said: “This budget will do nothing to help fix our stifling productivity, growing skills gap, or ensure a future made in Australia.”

“Today, we live and work in tech-driven knowledge economy underpinned by our history, and any budget and government activity must acknowledge this. If we are going to truly going to have a future made in Australia, we need to simplify the complexities that make it so difficult to correctly pay people. If the government really wants Australia to lead the world on green energy, it has to make it easier for budding green energy entrepreneurs to get the right people in place.”

“We need to seriously invest in technology and simplify the complex systems that inhibit its use to drive productivity and efficiency. Political leaders have avoided this for years because it’s not easy to fix, and frankly, worryingly, most of them don’t understand it.”

  1. Skills

Troy Williams, Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) chief executive, said: “This budget could have done more to put students at the heart of the skills training system, where the Australian Government backs their decision to study with an independent training provider or public TAFE college.”

"While the 2024 budget presents opportunities for workforce development, it falls short in fully supporting students with independent skills training providers.”

“The government missed an opportunity to amplify its impact on skills training by not fully backing independent providers. Supporting both independent quality RTOs and public TAFE colleges is key to a comprehensive national skilling strategy.”

Damien Andreasen, vice-president APJ at HiBob, commented further, saying: “One of the glaring omissions from the budget was any kind of measure that directly addresses Australia’s skills shortages beyond the construction sector.”

“Employers in Australia across several industries have struggled over the past few years to attract people with the right skills – especially in tech, AI, science and engineering – first during the pandemic when our borders were closed and then again last year during severe economic headwinds. Now would’ve been the perfect time to announce further plans to fix this systemic problem through a mix of education and training programmes for home-grown talent (especially for the rising unemployed) and further short-term visa incentives to attract high-skilled workers to Australia.”

“Against this economic backdrop, a recent HiBob study found that pay is the number-one factor that would encourage young people working in tech to switch jobs. And so, for the immediate short term at least, employers who have invested so much in their culture, diversity, flexibility and employee wellbeing over the past few years – essentials for modern business – will have to compete mainly on good old-fashioned compensation to recruit the most sought-after talent. That makes workforce planning for each employer even more important than usual.”

  1. Health

Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) chief executive Kylie Woolcock said: “In contrast with last year’s budget, where a raft of Medicare reforms in general practice and primary care were announced as measures to relieve the pressure on hospitals, this budget directs funding to the states and territories to support earlier discharge from hospital.”

“And for rural communities, the investments in health infrastructure are welcome, but will not address the critical support needed for innovative models of care and a workforce that supports place-based wellbeing and prevention.”

  1. Right to disconnect

Bryan Williams, founder of Hockey Stick Advisory, said: “In the start-up community, hard work and dedication are prerequisites for success. That’s one of the reasons it’s so inspiring to be within this ecosystem. The ‘right to disconnect’ legislation has the right idea in protecting the wellbeing of Australia’s workforce – but for growing start-ups, it could create challenges during that critical period of immense growth.”

“The government must keep the start-up community in mind and strike the right balance, especially given the legislation is moving so quickly. We advise start-ups at all stages of growth, but we’re also a growing business ourselves, so we know firsthand the amount of work it takes to get one off the ground, and there are some concerns around how this legislation could impact the viability of many early-stage businesses. We’d also love to see more consideration around how the right to disconnect may impact teams working across time zones.”

Commenting further was Carolyn Breeze, Scalare Partners chief executive: “In our connected world, the boundaries between work and personal life have become increasingly blurred. Many start-ups thrive on this flexibility, fostering a culture of innovation and growth. However, the proposal to restrict employers from contacting employees outside of work hours could inadvertently stifle the very essence of what makes start-ups dynamic and innovative.”

“Start-up culture is built on passion, dedication, and a relentless drive to push boundaries. It’s not uncommon for founders and employees alike to pour their hearts and souls into their work, often extending beyond the confines of the traditional schedule.”

She added: “It’s essential to strike a balance between work and personal life to prevent burnout and maintain overall wellbeing. Rather than imposing blanket restrictions on after-hours communication, start-ups can adopt more flexible approaches, such as implementing clear communication channels, offering flexibility in work hours, and encouraging employees to disconnect when needed. By fostering a culture of mutual respect and understanding, start-ups can promote work/life balance without sacrificing innovation and growth.”

  1. Women

Angelica Hunt, head of marketing and senior consultant at TDC Global, said: “Through policy changes, more can be done to increase women’s workforce participation, and support return to work, ensuring women’s careers don’t need to be put on hold long term. Universal childcare and relaxing the childcare subsidy activity test are key among these.”

  1. Industrial relations

Ben Thompson, chief executive and co-founder of Employment Hero, said: “It’s good to see the federal government acknowledging the complexity of its industrial reforms; however, one must question why this wasn’t recognised sooner. The allocated $20.5 million could have arguably been put to better use if the legislation had been stripped back initially.”

“The complexity of ever-changing industrial laws in Australia have been long recognised as some of the most intricate worldwide – confusing SMEs and putting their spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation at significant risk.”

He concluded: “Far from fostering an environment conducive to growth and innovation, the introduction of the recent legislation appears to tighten the noose around the necks of SME owners at a time when they need instead additional breathing space.”

  1. Cyber security

Cyber security expert, Jacqueline Jayne explained: "While there are many positive, programs and initiatives in this Budget related to cyber security, the missing element, once again, is preventative measures and education for Australians.”

“Securing Services Australia is required and so too is educating Australians on how to avoid the ongoing MyGov scams. The same is to be said for the ATO ‘to better protect taxpayer data and Commonwealth revenue against fraudulent attacks on the tax and superannuation systems’. A much-needed activity, and so too is raising awareness on all of the Tax Time scams that are about to be unleashed on us all."

What it got right

  1. Aged care

Martin Herbst, chief executive of JobAdder, said: “The confirmed 23 per cent pay rise for aged-care workers in the federal budget is a promising stride towards addressing recruitment challenges within the aged-care sector. It’s also a necessary step to avoid the predicted shortage of at least 110,000 direct aged-care workers within the next decade.”

“Upskilling opportunities and clear career pathways are equally important considerations for the federal government. This approach maintains and strengthens the workforce, enhancing service delivery. It’s also key to attracting new talent, while retaining and nurturing existing staff. The future of high-quality aged care for Australia’s most vulnerable population relies on increasing available opportunities and creating a talent pipeline.”

  1. Paid parental leave

Angelica Hunt, head of marketing and senior consultant at TDC Global, said: “The introduction of superannuation contributions to government paid parental leave is a welcome development. This move acknowledges the value of caregiving and directly tackles the gender superannuation gap, a longstanding issue that has disproportionately affected women due to career breaks to raise children.”

  1. Gender equality

Hunt continued: “Employee gender equality targets are not just a policy idea, but a powerful tool for creating equitable work environments. The government has been proactive so far in incentivising these targets by linking government contracts to gender objectives and empowering the WGEA to shed light on gender pay gaps. To maintain this momentum, it’s crucial for the budget to support businesses in accessing resources to implement these targets effectively, beyond a compliance checkbox. While these are not overnight solutions, they are steps in the right direction towards long-term change.”

  1. Placement payments

Charles Darwin University acting vice-chancellor, Professor Reuben Bolt, said: “One of the major hurdles we find when it comes to students completing their studies in crucial areas such as nursing, allied health and teaching is the successful completion of student placements.”

“Many students, particularly those from low socioeconomic areas, need to pause or give up paid work or even relocate to complete the required placement hours. Some must choose between filling their car with petrol in order to travel to their placements or having enough food for the week.”

“When students undertake work placements, they learn job and social skills, it helps them to decide on what career path they wish to choose and also boosts their chances of getting a job once they finish their studies.”

“Whilst this Prac Payment is most definitely a great start, we do want to see more study areas included to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to enter their chosen area of the workforce.”

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.