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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Anne Davies, Jonathan Barrett, Elias Visontay and Rafqa Touma

From boomers to Gen Z: how the federal budget affects the generations

Guardian Australia reporters Jonathan Barrett, Rafqa Touma, Anne Davies and Elias Visontay
Guardian Australia reporters Jonathan Barrett, Rafqa Touma, Anne Davies and Elias Visontay give the verdict for their respective generations on the 2023-24 federal budget. Photograph: Bertin Huynh/The Guardian

Different generations approached Australia’s 2023-24 federal budget with very different expectations. Those approaching retirement worry about healthcare and aged care, while at the other end of the age spectrum concerns focus squarely on rising rents and the fading possibility of ever owning a home. Our four panelists run the rule over the detail announced on Tuesday by the treasurer, Jim Chalmers.

Boomers – Anne Davies

For someone entering the third age, I am pleasantly surprised.

Perhaps the greatest relief for me is $11.5bn that’s being spent on increasing pay for aged care workers. The government also seems focused on recruiting more workers to the field and raising standards of care.

Many of my cohort spend hours trying to find support for our elderly parents, who want to stay in their homes and are on ACAT packages. The only trouble is finding services such as cleaners and carers. I can’t help but ponder what it will be like for us when we need assistance.

There’s quite a lot in healthcare too.

Incentives to boost Medicare bulk-billing are well overdue, though won’t affect me personally.

I am certainly looking forward to going to the pharmacy less – and saving money – thanks to the plan to allow me to get two months’ supply of my meds for $30 in one visit. Brilliant!

Perhaps my blood pressure will come down when I retire and I won’t need them at all.

It might also mean that it’s easier to get an appointment, when something really does go wrong (as it inevitably will) if the GP is not bogged down writing scripts.

The lowering of the threshold for additional assistance for older people on jobseeker, from 60 to 55, is also really important. It recognises that the majority of these people are women, who have limited opportunity to re-enter the workforce, little or no super and are at risk of homelessness.The rental allowance increase will help too.

We boomers are constantly being reminded by our kids that our generation and the one before were responsible for profiligate burning of fossil fuels and warming the planet.

We have tried to make amends by buying an electric car, putting on solar panels and upgrading our home, so further incentives to make improvements such as double glazing are welcome.

I am also pleased to see no further tinkering with super. That always unnerves me as it is now looming large as my only future source of income.

Generation X – Jonathan Barrett

Members of the comparatively small cohort known as Generation X – a cohort who grew up listening to mixtapes – live with a certain unease.

High housing costs and a prolonged period of tepid wage increases make us envious of the preceding house-hoarding baby boomers, some of whom now enjoy discounted travel on seniors’ cards they often don’t need.

But we are also aware we may have squeezed into a mortgage, or raised children, before living and education costs intensified further – an issue now weighing on the millennials born after us.

There are parts of the budget that Gen X will likely take advantage of, such as a low-cost loan for double-glazing and solar panels to weather-proof our homes, and an increased chance of a free GP consultation for our kids.

An expansion of the single parenting payment is also welcome, as are the various rental and energy cost relief measures.

But we will continue to live with a certain unease because we know that, without structural reform, some of these measures only work around the edges to get people through another day.

I’m at the young end of Gen Xers, with two primary school-aged children. I look at the budget, in part, with my children at the forefront, contemplating the rising education, housing and living costs they will face.

The generations are divided on what the federal budget’s housing measures have to offer.
The generations are divided on what the federal budget’s housing measures have to offer. Photograph: Ellen Smith/The Guardian

The government’s housing announcements start to address some of those concerns at a structural level.

A federal government should partner with states and the private sector to pour money into building homes and providing discounted ways for young people to buy them. They must also provide adequate social housing and rental assistance as required.

The $10bn housing Australia future fund, which promises more social and affordable housing, and the tax break for build-to-rent projects, are heading in the right direction.

There are other reforms that many in my generation would welcome. For example, the car industry has long been preparing for a shift to electric vehicles; it is now waiting for the government to catch up and throw its full throttle support behind the change.

The government could also ban vinyl records, both for boomers and that strange group of millennials now listening to them. Give them a mixtape instead.

Gen Y/millennials – Elias Visontay

There’s not a whole lot in this budget that will soothe the millennial angst that has plagued my generation in recent years.

Sure, we’re all affected by the housing inaccessibility, rising energy bills and other cost of living pressures the government will now spend billions more addressing – but these policies appear to be targeted either side of the average millennial.

As a generation that has seen the easy way of life and prospects of home ownership enjoyed by baby boomers and Gen Xers evaporate before our eyes, many of us will no doubt be heartened to see that those of us on the lowest of incomes who are already relying on government support will be better off. We can all take comfort knowing society’s safety net will better cushion us should we fall.

For the millennial on an average income, who has been paying increasingly more in rent to live in a room with an increasingly alarming patch of mould in an increasingly crammed sharehouse in a suburb increasingly far away from our jobs and families – all against the backdrop of ever increasing interest rates – there’s not a whole lot of relief on the horizon.

Build-to-rent properties are the solution, if you ask the government, who are now incentivising more of these developments.

Aside from the galling notion of paying rent directly to a developer (that’ll teach us to complain about the thought of lining our landlords’ pockets) – this type of development will take years to build and won’t make a dent in the rental vacancy crisis that has forced many of us back into the family home to save for a home we can’t afford.

For those of us pushed into buying to escape the vape-toting Zoomers now entering our sharehouses, but without the Bank of Mum and Dad™ or a partner to share mortgage stress with, this budget has a solution – we can now access first-home buyer incentives by buying with siblings and friends.

This treats the symptom but not the root cause of the housing crisis. It’s stressing us out, and even that’s a sore point – there’s not a whole lot in the budget that makes me think that bulk-billed psychologist waitlist is getting any shorter.

Generation Z – Rafqa Touma

To buy a home, raise a family, or, heaven forbid, pay off a Hecs debt, feels like a mirage for Generation Z – something the boomers had, but is always beyond our grasp.

The federal budget has done little to change this perception.

Born in the late 1990s and early 2000s, zoomers had our coming of age just as the world was hit by a pandemic and financial crisis. Now, many are juggling multiple jobs to pay rent for a shoe-box-sized apartment, and having to toss up whether higher education courses are worth the rise in fees.

An increase of $40 a fortnight for jobseeker, youth allowance and Austudy recipients is neat. That will be an extra $320 each four-month university semester, give or take – just enough to cover textbooks.

Rafqa Touma sees the budget’s efforts to stamp out vaping as a win for Generation Z.
Rafqa Touma sees the budget’s efforts to stamp out vaping as a win for Gen Z. Photograph: Diego Fedele/AP

A pledge of up to $31 extra a fortnight for renters in the private market and community housing has increased the maximum rates of commonwealth rent assistance by 15% – the largest increase in more than 30 years. (I will remain living with my parents, however, because $60 would barely dent the $2,000 monthly average rent in Sydney for someone my age.)

The 300,000 fee-free Tafe and vocational places to upskill in emerging sectors is good to see. But it is of little comfort for university students who are being hit by increasing Hecs debts.

The government’s $3.5bn increase to the Medicare bulk-billing incentive will apply to some students and young people who have the healthcare concession card, but the biggest benefits are for pensioners or those under 16.

And in another piece of good news for public health (but a devastating hit to vaping fiends) new anti-vaping campaigns will roll out over the next four years, paid for by higher taxes on tobacco and alongside the government’s ban on recreational vaping. There’s $63.4m for the advertising campaign, and $29.5m for support services to help stamp out the habit among us.

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