Federal Budget 2024 – Update

While we are still analysing all the details, we wanted to give you a quick overview of what’s in this year’s Federal Budget for older people.  A more detailed Policy Alert will be released on Friday, but for now here are the topline initiatives and our comments on them:

Cost of Living Relief

The Budget has been billed as a win for pensioners.  We aren’t sure that’s a completely accurate description but the Budget does contain some useful cost of living relief measures including:

  • A $300 energy rebate for every household to help people meeting the rising cost of electricity and gas bills. Our recent research shows that 1 in 4 older people have overdue energy bills, so this is an important relief measure we hope becomes a permanent feature.  In addition, Government provided $1.8 million to support a range of energy retail market reforms, including enabling consumers to switch to a better deal with just ‘one click,’ preventing contracts rolling over to higher-cost deals, ensuring people receive the concessions and rebates they are entitled to, and reducing excess fees and charges.
  • A five-year freeze on what pensioners and concession cardholders will pay for PBS medications will also provide significant relief.
  • A 10 per cent increase in the Commonwealth Rent Assistance payment will help many older renters. This year’s 10% and last year’s 15% increases are a step towards the 60 per cent increase that’s needed. We hope the increased investment continues but also that the payment is reviewed and redesigned to ensure it is providing the level of support required in the longer term.
  • Social Security financial assets deeming rate will continue at their 2022 levels for one more year, benefiting 876,000 income support recipients, including 450,000 Age Pensioners. The lower deeming rate will remain at 0.25 per cent and the upper rate will remain at 2.25 per cent until 30 June 2025.

The Women’s Budget Statement

As is now a standard feature the Government released a Women’s Budget Statement, and this continues the Federal Government’s commitment to gender equality.

They are making important changes that will support future generations of older women like the introduction of superannuation on government paid parental leave. COTA Australia is supportive of these kinds of measures, but we can’t ignore the shocking statistics around older women’s financial security.

On average, women retire five years earlier than men, and live five years longer. Despite needing 10 years more retirement income, women have a third less than men, compounding financial insecurity. To address the inequity facing older women we need to look further into the systemic barriers holding many older women back.

Weve heard from many of you about the challenges of getting good health care and support and the difficulty of staying in the workforce so it good to see action on supporting women through menopause including:

  • $53.6 million for research into health priorities such as women’s health including menopause, pregnancy loss and infertility.
  • $1.2 million to support training for health practitioners to better treat, care and manage women’s health during menopause. This measure will make it easier for health practitioners to access training so that they can provide well-informed, up-to-date advice and treatment to women during menopause.


Mental health was a focus of Government health initiatives with $888.1 million dedicated to help people get the mental health care they need, including through:

  • a new national, free low-intensity digital service from 1 January 2026, that is expected to support 150,000 people each year every without needing a referral, addressing the existing gap for people with mild mental health concerns.
  • 61 Medicare Mental Health Centres opened by 30 June 2026 to provide access to free mental health services to provide clinical services, for adults with moderate to severe mental health needs.
  • Funding for Primary Health Networks to work in partnerships with GPs to deliver multidisciplinary wraparound supports and care coordination, for people who have complex needs.

In addition, Government committed to establishing a further 29 Medicare Urgent Care Clinics and boost support for regional and remote clinics. This will increase the total number of clinics across Australia to 87. Since commencing last year, existing clinics have already provided almost 400,000 bulk billed visits.

Pay Increases for Aged Care & Child Care Workers

The Government reinforced its commitment to fund promised increases to aged care and childcare workers – both highly feminised workforces. We now wait to heart the determination from the Fair Work Commission, hopefully in the near future, so that the money is in the pay packets of aged care workers as quickly as possible.

Aged Care

Older Australians living in residential aged care will benefit from funding through state and territory governments to provide hospital outreach, deliver virtual care, upskill the residential care workforce, and support the Transition Care Program. We saw the terrible gaps and flaws in health care in aged care during the pandemic – ensuring better access to the same health services all Australians can access is critical.

There was less good news for the many older Australians who live independently in their own homes. Only 24,100 additional home care packages were announced for next year, and $21 million a year of funds earmarked for the Commonwealth Home Support Program will be diverted to other aged care sub-programs.  Older people are often wait over a year for support they’re assessed as needing and end up in hospital, or residential aged care before they need to be there, or in the worst cases they die waiting for support that never comes. COTA Australia believes that no older person needing support should have to wait for longer than 30 days of being assessed. We will continue to advocate for that to be case.

Other commitments included:

  • $87.2 million for workforce initiatives to attract nurses and other workers into aged care.
  • $110.9 million over 4 years to increase the regulatory capability of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
  • $37 million for the My Aged Care Contact Centre to reduce wait times for people seeking information and access to aged care.
  • A range of initiatives to support better dementia care including $30.4 million over 3 years to deliver the Specialist Dementia Care Program for clinical in reach support provided by state and territory governments.

The New Aged Care Act

The Federal Government announced the new Aged Care Act will commence on 1 July 2025 – some 13 months away.

It’s good to know where the finishing line is but we’re still no clearer on the starting line for the parliamentary processes to commence.

The Aged Care Act was the number one recommendation from the Aged Care Royal Commission. We need the Government to introduce the Act into Parliament as a priority to allow proper scrutiny and community conversation, and we need the support of the whole Parliament to ensure it is passed by the end of this calendar year, so the sector is ready to implement it from 1 July 2025.

Older people have been waiting for their rights to be enshrined in legislation for a long time and need certainty and security when it comes to accessing care. They need certainty around the care they will receive, and need a guarantee that what they will be asked to pay is fair. It’s up to all parliamentarians to make sure that happens.

Digital Inclusion

Government announced $288.1 million to expand Australia’s Digital ID systems, within a broader $1B investment in My Gov and Services Australia digital enhancements. As Australia raises the digital security of all Australians, we need to ensure the 2.1 million people without government issued photographic ID such as a driver’s license (like me!) don’t get left out of the new digital world the government is building. After raising it for many years and recent laws passing parliament, a clear timeframe for when these government-issued IDs are embedded in the new system is long overdue.

In addition, they announced:

  • $68 million to roll out community wi-fi in remote communities and better support digital literacy, largely focused on first nations communities.
  • $12.4 million for the Australian Communications and Media Authority to oversee the review and improve existing scam call and SMS code for telcos, and boost enforcement action to prevent, detect, and disrupt scams.

That’s it for now.  Keep an eye out on Friday for our more detailed analysis.