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Budget 2024: Cost of living relief takes centre stage

Support will be boosted for Australians facing acute and urgent financial pressures with $138 million to meet sustained high demand for crisis support including emergency relief, food relief and financial support services.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced a raft of cost-of-living relief measures in the Federal Budget, including the already announced tax cuts, increasing the Medicare levy low-income thresholds and power bill relief.

"This government and this Budget delivers for every Australian. A tax cut for every taxpayer. Wages growing in every industry. A better deal for every working parent. A fairer go at every checkout," Chalmers said when presenting the Budget to parliament.

"New help with energy bills for every household and for small business. Stronger Medicare in every community. More homes in every state and territory. More opportunities in every TAFE and University. A dignified retirement for older Australians."

Social security deeming rates for financial investments will remain at current levels until 30 June 2025. This will benefit approximately 876,000 income support recipients, including 450,000 age pensioners.

The government has also increased the Medicare levy low-income thresholds for 2023-24, ensuring more than one million low-income taxpayers continue to be exempt from the Medicare levy or pay a reduced levy rate.

The government is also providing $3.5 billion in energy bill relief for all Australian households and around one million small businesses.

From 1 July 2024, more than 10 million households will receive a total rebate of $300 and eligible small businesses will receive $325 on their electricity bills throughout the year.

This is estimated to directly reduce headline inflation by around 0.5% in 2024-25 and is not expected to add to broader inflationary pressures.

Renters will also receive some reprieve with the government providing $1.9 billion over five years to increase maximum rates of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by a further 10%.

This builds on the 15% increase in September 2023 and will take maximum rates over 40% higher than in May 2022.

Australians will also benefit from cheaper medicines under the Budget. The government is working to finalise the new Eighth Community Pharmacy Agreement, supported by up to an additional $3 billion in funding, which will deliver cheaper medicines.

As part of the agreement, instead of rising with inflation, there will be a one-year freeze on the maximum Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) patient co-payment for everyone with a Medicare card and a five-year freeze for pensioners and other concession cardholders.

This change means that no pensioner or concession card holder will pay more than $7.70 (plus any applicable manufacturer premiums) for up to five years.

Aged care workers will also receive a wages boost. The government has committed to funding the Fair Work Commission decision to increase award wages for aged care workers. This is on top of $11.3 billion already allocated for the interim 15% increase.

The government will provide funding towards a wage increase for the early childhood education and care workforce, with details to be finalised following the Fair Work Commission processes currently underway.

Read more: MedicareFederal BudgetFair Work CommissionTreasurer Jim ChalmersCommonwealth Rent Assistance