Grant Highlights: 2022 Australian Federal Budget

2022 Australian federal budget

After almost six months in power, the Albanese Labor government delivered the much anticipated 2022 Australian federal budget that will carry the country through the next seven months until the next budget release in May 2023.

The Albanese Labor government budget has ushered in a number of changes to the federal grant funding landscape; some long-standing grant programs are gone; some new ones have emerged, as have areas of significant investment where the green shoots of grant funding may sprout in the future.

We expect a clearer picture of the federal grants landscape will emerge in the May 2023 budget when we will have had the opportunity to examine and better understand where a lot of the funding is flowing and how many significant areas of investment will channel their funding.

In order to adequately resource a range of new spending priorities (including new grants), the Albanese government has discontinued funding for a number of long-standing existing grants programs. Some of these funds won’t experience a ‘clean break’, as many successful applicants are engaged in multi-year projects that the Government is obliged to provide funding to. Alas, do not expect to see further rounds of the following grant programs:

Discontinued programs in the 2022 Australian federal budget:
• Building Better Regions Fund
• Community Development Grants Program
• Manufacturing Modernisation Fund
• Modern Manufacturing Initiative

At first glance, it may appear that this budget significantly cuts spending on grant programs (particularly for regional community infrastructure projects). However, a range of new programs have appeared in their place as well as areas of interest where grants may emerge. While we don’t have a crystal ball for all the details yet (guidelines, release dates, eligibility criteria), here are a few areas of investment that stood out after our initial examination:

GOVERNMENT

  • Regional Precincts and Partnerships Program ($500M) – Investing in place-based projects that transform regional centres. The program will also be the mechanism for delivering all future regional partnerships to help regions move towards net-zero emissions, a decarbonised economy
    and sustained regional growth
  • Growing Regions Program ($500m) – This program will fund local government-led infrastructure projects such as libraries and regional airport upgrades
  • Investing in Our Communities Program ($349.9M) -This program will deliver small scale community, sport and infrastructure projects across Australia.

BUSINESS/ FOR-PROFIT SECTOR

  • National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) ($15B) – The establishment of the National Reconstruction Fund will transform Australian industry through targeted coinvestments in 7 priority areas: resources; agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors; transport; medical science; renewables and low emission technologies; defence capability; and enabling capabilities.
  • On Farm Connectivity Program ($30M) – This program will extend connectivity for farmers and their machinery and grow Australia’s agribusiness.
  • Regional Connectivity Program ($200M) – Funds the delivery of ‘place-based’ telecommunications infrastructure projects to improve digital connectivity across regional, rural and remote Australia
  • Energy Efficiency Grants for Small and Medium Sizes Enterprises ($62.6M) – Supporting studies, planning, equipment and facility upgrade projects that will improve energy efficiency, reduce emissions or improve the management of power demand
  • Forestry Plantations Grants ($86.2M) – Grants to private industry and state-owned forestry corporations to establish new forestry plantations

HEALTHCARE

  • Medical Research Future Fund ($6.3B) – Additional resourcing for health and medical research projects through the 2nd 10-year Investment Plan (the 2nd Plan) for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).
  • Strengthening Medicare GP Grants ($229.7M) – Supporting GP practices to upgrade IT systems including to support telehealth consultations, upskill staff, purchase new equipment, upgrade practices to be COVID safe, and make other improvements to ensure GPs can see more patients and provide better care.
  • Innovative Models of Care Program ($24.9M) – Funding the trial of new primary care models

EDUCATION

  • TAFE Technology Fund ($50M) – Funding will modernise IT infrastructure, laboratories, telehealth simulators and other facilities at TAFEs Australia-wide.
  • Schools Upgrade Fund ($270.8M) – Funding will support capital works projects for upgrades to school equipment and to improve ventilation in classrooms to keep students and school staff safe following disruptions caused by COVID-19.
  • Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship Program ($5.8M) – This program encourages the participation for girls and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to enter STEM education and careers.
  • Community Language Schools Grants Program ($18.2) – Supporting young Australians to learn a second language. Eligible community language school will receive grant funding of up to $30,000 over three years.

RESOURCES AND THE ENVIRONMENT

  • Strategic Critical Minerals Development Program ($99.8M) – Will provide $50 million over 3 years for competitive grants to support early and mid-stage critical minerals projects
  • Powering the Regions Fund ($3.3M) – Will support the decarbonisation of existing industry, as well as the creation of new industry. The program will be established in 2022-23 with an initial funding investment of $3.3M. A $1.9B investment expected to roll out from 2023-24.
  • Disaster Ready Fund ($200M) – Funding will co-contribute to projects to strengthen Australia’s disaster readiness and resilience. This fund will repurpose and replace the existing Emergency Response Fund.

From a grants perspective, there is nothing especially surprising about this budget; investment in areas we expected (e.g., health care and disaster relief funding) and some shifts in the makeup of the grants landscape (e.g., scrapping of old funds like Building Better Regions and introduction of new funds such as the National Reconstruction Fund).

This makes sense, as the 2022 Australian federal budget can arguably be described as a short-term budget, particularly given that the next budget is roughly six months away. We should expect to see a more indicative budget (grants-wise) which follows through with more of Labor’s election promises in May 2023; particularly as the hangovers from the previous government’s operational grants commitments begin to abate.