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Federal Budget 2023: The impact by sector

There’s a surplus and plenty of winners, but what will the Federal Budget 2023-4 mean for different sectors of the Australian economy? A team of Westpac analysts explains in this exclusive report.

The Federal Government’s AUD 14.6 billion cost-of-living relief package to help low-income Australians and welfare recipients meet everyday expenses in the face of rising inflation forms the centrepiece of this year’s Budget.

 

Help will be available to pay electricity bills and rent, but Westpac Institutional Bank industry analysts don’t expect the payments will flow through to higher retail sales or the construction of more houses.

 

A tripling of the incentive for doctors to bulk bill, however, will support GPs’ incomes and improve the sustainability of clinics at the same time as delivering free medical consultations to more people.

 

And a reduction of withholding tax for foreign investors in build-to-rent managed investment trusts is likely to support an increase in homes built, but not enough to overcome the housing shortage.

 

Other significant initiatives in the Albanese Government’s second budget include AUD 2 billion to kickstart Australia’s large-scale hydrogen industry and the construction of 117 new electric vehicle charging sites along major highways to encourage better uptake of EVs.

 

In this report, Westpac Institutional Bank analysts consider the likely impact of the measures in Federal Budget 2023-4 sector by sector.

 

Consumer spending

  • AUD 14.6 billion cost of living relief package.
  • AUD 3 billion relief for households and small businesses energy bills.
  • AUD 40 per fortnight increase in JobSeeker payments.
  • 15 per cent increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance.

The cost-of-living package – including power rebates to households and small businesses, increases in unemployment benefits and rental assistance will provide some support for household discretionary spending, says Westpac Institutional Bank retail analyst Joel Yap.

 

It’s likely that much of the increase will be spent on services such as restaurants, entertainment and beauty over goods purchases, which poses an upside risk to inflation.

 

But the bigger picture for the consumer sector is unchanged.

 

Overall consumer and retail spending continues to slow as higher interest rates flow through household balance sheets with a large portion of mortgages rolling off fixed interest rates to higher floating rates in mid-2023. Additionally, rents are increasing thanks to the bounce back in immigration.

 

“Despite expectations of interest rates nearing their peak, we expect consumers to tighten their belts with greater scrutiny on purchasing decisions and retailers needing to fight harder to win consumer dollars,” Yap says.

 

Treasury expects GDP growth to slow from 3.25 per cent to 1.5 per cent in 2023–24 as household spending is dialled back.

 

Beyond that, increased net migration and the allocation of more places in the migration program to skilled migrants will help support consumer spending over the medium term with Treasury forecasting GDP growth of 2.25% across 2024-25 and 2.75% across 2025-26.

 

Auto

  • AUD 7.4 million to support the introduction of a fuel efficiency standard and increase supply of electric vehicles as part of the National Electric Vehicle Strategy.
  • 117 new EV charging sites on major highways.
  • Loans, exemption from fringe benefits tax and removal of 5 per cent import tariff for EVs.
 

The absence of minimum fuel efficiency standards has hindered supply of electric vehicles to Australia, with manufacturers favouring other nations with fuel efficiency standards.

 

The introduction of fuel efficiency standards will encourage carmakers to increase supply of light passenger and light commercial vehicles, which make up to 60 per cent of transport emissions and 10 per cent of total emissions in Australia, says Westpac Institutional Bank auto analyst Isabelle Ngo.

 

The government is also allocating close to AUD 40 million to expanding electric vehicle charging infrastructure with the installation of 117 sites on major highways, approximately every 150km apart. It will help relieve motorists “range anxiety”, which can deter some people from purchasing EVs.

 

Existing concessions such as exemption from fringe benefit tax and the removal of the import tariff on eligible EVs will increase affordability and supply to support the National EV Strategy objective of encouraging demand.

 

Defence

  • Spending to increase to AUD 52.6 billion in 2023–24 and will continue to rise.

 

Spending on defence will increase by 7per cent to AUD 52.6 billion in 2023–24 and is projected to continue increasing to maintain a 2 per cent of GDP level.

 

The AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine deal with the US and UK is the key spending initiative and is expected to cost AUD 50 - 58 billion over 10 years and up to AUD 368 billion by the mid-2050s as the submarines are delivered. Initial costs will focus on developing a new submarine agency, bringing on a workforce, naval facility upgrades, and payments to step-up production in the US.

 

Westpac Institutional Bank analyst Scott Warburton said defence spending will also create a highly skilled labour force and industrial capability in the regions, with the AUKUS program creating up to 20,000 jobs over three decades.

 

Banks and Non-Bank Financial Institutions

  • Financial institutions face lower loan growth and increased arrears as household finances tighten.
  • Larger banks can diversify into defence, healthcare and renewable energy, which received increases in Budget funding.

Banks’ earnings and capitalisation are currently receiving a boost from high interest rates, but the long-term picture is less benign, says Westpac Institutional Bank banking sector analyst Musharraf Unar.

 

Increasing pressure on household finances due to rising interest rates and high inflation, and a Budget forecast of rising unemployment in 2023/24 and 2024/25 present risks for top line growth as well as the asset quality of the overall financial services sector.

 

“Asset quality has already shown signs of deterioration with increasing arrears as well as rising credit provisions,” Unar says.

 

Non-bank financial institutions, such as mortgage originators, face additional pressure on their interest rate margins because of higher funding costs and will find origination of new loans more difficult because of increasing competition, smaller scale, and their focus on niche loan segments.

 

The cost-of-living measures will only be of modest help to debt serviceability because they are mostly targeted at low-income households and renters, which are not the target loan markets for financial institutions. Additionally, demand for loans from small-to-medium enterprises will be impacted by the high cost of doing business, despite some assistance in the Budget from energy rebates and an extension of the instant asset write-off scheme, Unar says.

 

Larger banks will benefit from the diversification of loans into defence, health care and renewable sectors, all of which received large increases in Budget funding.

 

Healthcare

  • AUD 3.5 billion to encourage more bulk billing by general practitioners.
  • Continued investment in the digitisation of health.
  • A range of initiatives in pharmacy, building on their plan to make medicines more affordable. 
     

General practitioners will receive an additional AUD 20.65 if they bulk bill low-income patients and children, a tripling of the previous incentive, and GPs in rural areas will receive AUD 39.65.

 

For consumers, the incentives mean fewer patients will have to make a co-payment for a doctor’s visit.

 

“It's a material injection into primary care and it will really drive the level of sustainability in GP clinics and primary care,” says Westpac Institutional Bank healthcare analyst Sachin Kumar.

 

The government is also increasing funding for the digitisation of healthcare, to help drive increased adoption of the My Health Record platform. Ultimately, the investment will lead a “digital dividend” including patients and practitioners having access to longitudinal digital medical records, reducing waste and increase interoperability across the healthcare ecosystem, Kumar says. 

 

The number of urgent primary clinics will increase from 50 to 58 to allow hospital and emergency care clinics to concentrate on more serious and urgent cases.

 

The Medicare Benefits Schedule is being altered to allow patients with chronic conditions to enrol with their GPs. “It’s a move towards a multidisciplinary team-based medicine,” Kumar says. 

 

Finally, the government is expanding the PBS listings via the reinvestment of savings from the introduction of 60 day dispensing for ~300 common medicines.  “This will allow people to buy two months’ worth of medicine for the price of a one-month prescription” potentially saving patients ~$180 per year per script and freeing up GP appointments. This builds on the introduction of lower co-payments which reduced script costs from $42.50 to $30.00 in January 2023. 

 

Aged Care

  • A 15 per cent increase in wages for aged care workers.
  • 9,500 additional Home Care Packages.

A wage increase for aged care workers will help put the sector on a more even footing with the hospital sector, which during COVID drew staff away from aged care because it paid more, says Kumar.

 

Wages make up about 70 per cent of the cost of providing aged care services and the pay increase will help the sector retain staff and put it on a sounder financial footing.

 

The Budget also contained funding for a further 9,500 Home Care Packages, as the government continues to invest to keep more older Australians living at home.

 

Higher Education

  • Post-study work rights visa changes to make Australia a more attractive destination.
  • AUD 127.3 million for 4,000 additional Commonwealth-supported university places to support the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine program.

The university sector is currently undergoing an extensive 12-month review through the Australian Universities Accord, which aims to create a “visionary plan” for the sector over the next 10 to 30 years. With the interim report due in June and the final report due in December, the Accord’s outcome will drive long-term funding of the sector.

 

As such, there were only modest higher education initiatives in this year’s Budget.

 

The Budget commits AUD 127.3 million for 4,000 additional Commonwealth-supported places at universities and other higher education providers for courses that support the skill requirements of the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine program.

 

There is also AUD 188 million to improve clinical training of psychologists, doctors, midwives and nurses, including a trial of enhanced training arrangements to support international medical students working in rural and remote areas.

 

The government will also deliver on the second tranche of its commitment for 20,000 additional Commonwealth-supported university places in 2023 and 2024.

 

An increase in the amount of time foreign students can work in Australia for, after they have finished their eligible university degrees, will help make Australia a more attractive destination for international students, says Westpac Institutional Bank higher education analyst Zak Robson.

 

From 1 July 2023, graduates with eligible bachelor’s degrees will be able to work in Australia for four years instead of two, master’s graduates will be able to work for five years instead of three, and PhD graduates can work for six years rather than four.

 

The move will support the recovery in foreign student numbers from the lows of the COVID pandemic and help to increase Australia’s supply of skilled labour.

 

Infrastructure

  • Committed AUD 120 billion to infrastructure over 10 years.
  • Plans to cull current pipeline of over 700 projects based on genuine need.

Infrastructure spending didn’t receive the same sort of fanfare as it has attracted in previous Budgets, with the government reconfirming its commitment to spending AUD 120 billion on infrastructure over the next decade.

 

The Albanese government is planning to review and reduce the pipeline of infrastructure projects, which grew from 150 to over 700 under the previous government. The review will prioritise projects that will boost productivity, such as those which improve supply chains and boost economic activity in the regions.

 

Projects expected to survive the cull are anticipated to include the suburban Rail Loop East project in Melbourne, which has previously received an AUD 2.2 billion allocation and is already under construction. Likewise, the AUD 363 million allocated to improve roads in NSW is likely to remain.

 

The planned cutback of the projects in the pipeline won’t be of much concern to the infrastructure sector, given that many existed only on paper and hadn’t been funded, says Westpac Institutional Bank infrastructure analyst Deshan De Silva.

 

Property

  • Reduction in withholding tax for foreign build-to-rent investors.
  • Rental assistance unlikely to help housing supply.

A reduction in withholding tax from 30 per cent to 15 per cent for overseas investors into managed investment trusts for build-to-rent developments will help boost housing supply, says Westpac Institutional Bank property analyst Frank Allen.

 

“It will encourage more overseas investment into Australia, and they’ll be bringing their expertise to help build the right sort of product,” he says.

 

Despite this, the housing shortage will remain thanks to a lack of supply.

 

The government has retained its ambition of a million new houses between 2024 and 2029, but with new housing approvals running at a 10-year low and challenges in the construction sector that are causing some builders to collapse, that number is going to be very difficult to achieve, says Allen.

 

The Budget increase in rental assistance will help low-income earners pay the rent but it won’t do anything to boost housing supply.

 

For commercial property, with the Australian economy looking likely to avoid a recession, existing tenant demand will be supported, but the weak economy won’t create new demand for the next couple of years and lower consumer spending will affect future growth of retail properties.

 

Renewable energy and electricity

  • AUD 2 billion to kickstart Australia’s large-scale hydrogen industry.
  • Underwriting new investment in renewable generation and storage.

It was another important Budget for the renewable energy sector, with AUD 2 billion for a Hydrogen Headstart program, which aims to accelerate development of Australia’s hydrogen industry and help the country connect to new global hydrogen supply chains.

 

The program will speed up large-scale renewable hydrogen projects through competitive production contracts, says Westpac Institutional Bank energy analyst Pranoy Modi.

 

The spending on the hydrogen sector comes amid intensifying global competition in the clean energy sector, including the US Government providing a USD 3 per kilogram tax credit for green hydrogen production.

 

The size of the Australian subsidy hasn’t been released, but it will be delivered by way of a production credit designed to bridge the gap between the market price of existing hydrogen and renewable hydrogen. Currently grey hydrogen is selling in Australia at 50c to USD 1.50 per kg, while green hydrogen is estimated to cost USD 3 to USD 5 per kilogram to produce.

 

Additionally, the funding for the Headstart program doesn’t appear to have been matched by any similar investment in the demand-side infrastructure to allow Australian industries and generators to use the green hydrogen.

 

The Budget also establishes the Capacity Investment Scheme to underwrite new private sector investment in clean energy production and storage. 

 

The amount of funding and other details are yet to be released but Modi expects it to operate like state-based schemes, where the government provides developers with certainty over the revenue from a proposed renewable project, which in turn gives developers confidence to go ahead.

 

An AUD 1.5 billion energy relief fund will help to meet the power bills of 5 million households and 1 million businesses and a further AUD 1.3 billion for a household energy upgrades fund will lend householders money to put in solar generation, double glazing windows and other energy efficiency measures.

 

A further AUD 1.4 billion is to be allocated to support the decarbonisation of existing industries and to develop new clean energy industries in regional areas. The program will help support companies with trade-exposed industrial emissions which are subject to the Safeguard Mechanism emissions reduction plan, says Modi.

 

Resources

  • Higher than forecast commodity prices helped the Budget to a surplus.

Tax paid by the resources sector helped the Budget to the first surplus in 15 years, with commodity prices sitting two to six times higher than forecast in the October 2022 Budget. Westpac Institutional Bank resource sector analyst Graham Smith expects hard rock commodity prices to fall back closer to average levels in the coming year, but probably not by as much as forecast in the Budget.

 

The Budget didn’t contain much for the hard rock mining sector, but at the same time didn’t cut any previous initiatives, including the AUD 2 billion Critical Minerals Facility, which provides finance for early-stage projects to mine for some of the key minerals required by the global decarbonisation effort, Smith says.

 

The cap on deductions for the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax to take effect from 1 July is the latest in a string of changes affecting the oil and gas sector in the past year, says Westpac resources analyst Grant Jepson. While there might not be much financial impact for the oil and gas sector, producers might start allocating capital to other jurisdictions they consider to be more investment friendly.

 

The industry analysts quoted in this article are from Westpac Institutional Bank and are not independent research analysts.

 

 See Westpac IQ for more detailed analysis of the 2023-24 Federal Budget.

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