Budget set to boost mental health funding

Josh Frydenberg's third budget is expected to pour billions into aged care and mental health.
Josh Frydenberg's third budget is expected to pour billions into aged care and mental health.

Australia's mental health and aged care systems will receive record funding in the federal budget with billions of dollars to be spent on the ailing sectors.

But experts have warned the packages may only begin to claw back ground after years of funding shortfalls.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will hand down his third budget on Tuesday with major spending expected across government services.

Mental health advocates have long implored the federal government to dramatically increase funding.

An extra $500 million is expected to be pumped into the mental health sector each year, most of which will be delivered through commonwealth-run primary health networks.

The funding will be aimed at delivering services to regional and disadvantaged areas with acute mental health needs, as well as those most affected by fires, floods, coronavirus restrictions and youth unemployment.

National Mental Health Commission chief executive Christine Morgan, who advises Prime Minister Scott Morrison on suicide prevention, said early intervention, service integration and access were key.

"We need to be able to intervene a lot earlier in illness, in episode and in life," she told ABC radio.

Leading psychiatrist Patrick McGorry said the federal government was spending $3.6 billion annually on an issue that affected five million Australians every year.

"No governments anywhere in the world have understood the scale of the issue."

Health Minister Greg Hunt is remaining tight-lipped on reports the aged care package could be almost $18 billion over four years.

He said it would be a fundamental line in the sand after a damning royal commission report called for radical changes across the troubled system.

Building a better-paid workforce and boosting training are set to be key targets of the package.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians says the royal commission showed successive government cuts created a $10 billion annual funding shortfall.

Job creation and driving economic confidence are also in sharp focus for the coalition.

The government will spend another $500 million to try to lure global businesses and talent from overseas.

The task will be difficult, given international borders remain closed but the government is determined to attract the best and brightest to drive its economic recovery.

The package includes plans to encourage the use of employee share schemes and simplify tax residency rules to attract workers and businesses to Australia.

Mr Frydenberg is also expected to announce a $1 billion extension of the JobTrainer program, which offers free or low-fee courses to young and unemployed people.

It comes as the government prepares to dump a hiring credit for people under 35 which supported just 1100 of the 450,000 jobs it was supposed to.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese criticised the government for lacking a plan to address record low wages growth, unemployment and underemployment.

He said the coalition was pushing the nation's debt towards $1 trillion but lacked an economic plan.

The government will also unveil a major women's safety and economic security package, including domestic violence funding doubling to $680 million and $354 million over four years for health.

Australian Associated Press