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Baby bonus resurrection off the cards: Treasurer

Budget preparation

Source: Jim Chalmers

Australians should not expect a revival of the baby bonus any time soon but Treasurer Jim Chalmers does want to make it cheaper to have more kids.

Speaking ahead of his third budget as Treasurer, Chalmers said more affordable childcare and expanding paid parental leave were some of the ways the government is making life easier for families.

“I know that some people can’t afford to have more kids,” he said on Friday.

“I know that people will make their own choices, and I don’t pretend for a moment that governments should direct those choices. But we want to make it easier for people to have bigger families if they want too.”

However, a re-run of former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello’s 2004 baby bonus, a cash payment for new mums aimed at lifting Australia’s falling birthrate, is not on Chalmers’ agenda.

“We’ve found a better way to support people who make that choice,” he said.

Australian birth rates are on a trajectory of long-term decline. Last year’s Intergenerational Report showed the nation’s total fertility rate is expected to decline from 1.66 babies per woman in 2022-23, to 1.62 by the end of the decade.

Chalmers said Australia would benefit from “healthy birth rates” and the government’s goal was to make it easier to have families if they wanted to.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher joined Chalmers on Friday to spruik the government’s budget repair strategy, with a further $27.9 billion in savings found in this budget, largely in defence.

Reprioritisations within defence will produce $22.5 billion in savings, while the budget will gain an extra $1 billion from reduced spending on external labour such as consultants and contractors.

Tuesday’s budget will also include $15.4 billion for “unavoidable” spending needed to keep critical programs going that are due to soon run out.

Among the measures are extending funding for health programs for palliative care and cancer supports, as well as the federal Covid response and boosting operations for myGov services.

Gallagher said while the aim was to still provide a surplus, the funding cliff for key programs would mean a weaker-than-expected budget position in coming years compared to earlier forecasts.

“Australians expect a responsible government to identify sensible savings to reinvest in higher quality spending and keep existing programs in place to prevent any cuts to the services that Australians rely on,” she said.

“Our approach to this budget … is to reduce gross debt and identify responsible savings to take the pressure off inflation, while also continuing to make the investments Australians expect.”

– AAP

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