The 2023-24 Budget saw the Albanese Government focus on delivering cost of living relief for Australians, while attempting to balance inflationary pressures. Increased investment in Medicare and the care sectors, support for sole parent families, building a clean energy future and putting the Budget on a more sustainable footing over the longer term were key messages.

    Cyber governance, climate change and ESG governance measures in the budget are highly relevant to all directors. Funding is included for measures to drive stronger regulatory oversight of modern slavery laws, mandatory climate reporting and cyber regulation.

    Governance measures include cyber security support for small business and critical infrastructure owners, a new Net Zero Authority to drive the carbon transition, new funding for AUSTRAC to explore anti-money laundering law reform, and the creation of a Modern Slavery Commissioner.

    Due to illness AICD Chief Economist Mark Thirlwell is unable to provide his usual budget summary tonight. Mark’s analysis will be included in tomorrow’s Membership Update.

    Below are the key items of interest to directors provided by AICD’s Head of Policy Christian Gergis.

    Cyber security and privacy: more funding, focus on small business and enforcement

    The Budget includes additional funding to strengthen Australia’s cyber security resilience and privacy enforcement.

    $101.6m over 5 years from 2022–23 (and $11.8m per year ongoing) is provided to lift the nation’s cyber security. This includes: $46.5m over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $11.8m per year ongoing) to establish a new Coordinator for Cyber Security to ensure coordinated, timely and effective action across Government.

    $23.4 million in funding is provided over 3 years for a small business cyber wardens program to be delivered by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia; and $19.5m in 2023–24 to continue work to improve the security of critical infrastructure assets and assist owners and operators to respond to significant cyber-attacks.

    On the privacy front, the Government will provide $45.2m over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $8.4m per year ongoing) for stronger privacy protection and enforcement.  This money is primarily be allocated to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to support a standalone Privacy Commissioner, progress investigations and enforcement, and enhance its data and analytics capability. This initiative will drive a stronger focus on board oversight of data governance.

    A modest sum has also been allocated to the Attorney-General’s Department to progress the Government’s response to the recent Privacy Act review, which proposed widescale changes to the current regime.

    Climate change: renewable energy ambition, Net Zero Authority, greenwashing enforcement

    With the Treasurer calling the shift to clean energy “Australia’s biggest opportunity for growth and prosperity”, the Government has ambitions for Australia to be a “renewable energy superpower”, committing over $40bn in the Budget.

    $23bn is allocated to improve the electricity grid and support electrification, and $17bn to exploit opportunities in hydrogen, critical minerals and upstream industries including a $2bn “Hydrogen Headstart” program.

    The Budget funds the recently announced Net Zero Authority, tasked with promoting an orderly transition to a clean energy economy. The Authority will focus on the regions, industries and workers that have traditionally powered Australia’s economy while enabling First Nations Australians to meaningfully participate.

    A dedicated agency will be created in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to lead the design of the Authority, and perform its functions, until its formal establishment. Similar authorities are already in operation in other jurisdictions, such as Scotland, aimed at better consultation and engagement with impacted stakeholders.

    The Government has also provided $14.2m for a sustainable finance strategy which will include the introduction of a sovereign green bond program to raise capital for environmental and climate change programs, developing a sustainable finance taxonomy, and addressing greenwashing and related misconduct through dedicated ASIC surveillance and enforcement funding ($4.3m in FY24).

    The Government has re-committed to mandatory climate related financial disclosures for large businesses and financial institutions, while providing dedicated funding of $18.1m to strengthen the integrity of Australian Carbon Credit Units.

    Mandatory climate reporting is a key focus for Australian boards and directors. Through the Climate Governance Initiative hub, the AICD is providing primers and resources to support directors in responding to these increased expectations of boards.

    On the environment more broadly, the Government has allocated $214.1m over 4 years to deliver its Nature Positive Plan including $121m to establish Environment Protection Australia as a “tough cop on the beat” to enforce environmental laws.

    Care sectors: re-commitment to NDIS, implementing widescale reforms to aged care

    The Government is developing a National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy aimed at providing a blueprint for a sustainable and productive sector.

    In the interim, the Government is trying to place the NDIS on a more sustainable footing for long-term viability. As an initial step, the Government will provide $732.9m over 4 years, including a $429.5m uplift in the National Disability Insurance Agency’s (NDIA’s) capability and systems, $73.4m to better support participants to manage their plan, and $63.8m over two years to take a lifetime approach.

    In parallel, the National Cabinet has committed to an annual growth target in NDIS costs of no more than 8 per cent by 1 July 2026, with further moderation as the Scheme matures.

    In aged care, the Budget provides funding for an interim wage increase of 15% for many aged care workers on awards, and $166.8m to provide an additional 9,500 home care packages.

    Aged care providers in very remote areas will receive additional support, and an interim First Nations Aged Care Commissioner will be appointed.

    The Budget includes funding to strengthen aged care sector regulation including $81.9m to develop and implement a new legislative regime, and $139.9m to enhance the Star Rating system. These measures are highly relevant to boards in the sector.

    New Modern Slavery Commissioner, strengthened AML laws, improving governance oversight of government entities

    Delivering on a pre-election promise, the Government will provide $8m over 4 years (and $2m per year ongoing) to establish an Anti-Slavery Commissioner to work across Government, industry and civil society.

    The Anti-Slavery Commissioner is tasked with driving compliance with the Modern Slavery Act, and to improve transparency in supply chains and help fight modern slavery here and abroad.

    The Government is expected to shortly release the findings of the recent McMillan review of the Modern Slavery Act’s operation. This will include a focus on board oversight of modern slavery risks.

    The Budget also sees the Government looking to toughen anti-money laundering obligations, with $14.3m allocated over 4 years to support policy and legislative reforms.

    Funding includes $8.6m over 3 years for AUSTRAC to develop and consult stakeholders on legislative reforms to modernise Australia’s AML and counter-terrorism financing regime and support the evaluation of Australia’s regime against global standards by the Financial Action Task Force.

    The Department of Finance has been provided with $40.8m over 4 years (and $9.5m ongoing) to increase its capacity to deliver high quality policy and financial advice, improve the quality of government spending and investment and strengthen governance arrangements for government entities.

    As members may be aware, former Public Service Commissioner Lynelle Briggs is currently conducting a review into the governance arrangement of public sector boards.

    Charity disclosure

    The Budget includes $2.9 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $0.6 million per year ongoing) to the Australian Taxation Office to enable increased disclosure of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission’s regulatory activities to enhance transparency and accountability in the charity sector.

    Women’s leadership

    The Government is committed to driving the actions needed to progress women’s representation in leadership across public, business, community and political spheres. As part of the 2022 Federal Election, the Government made a commitment to help enable a new generation of women across the country to enter public office. To achieve this, the Government is providing $5 million over 5 years to Women for Election Australia to equip and encourage more women to enter politics. This funding is provided as part of the Women’s Leadership Development Program.

    Referendum – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament

    Finally, the Budget provides $336.6 million over two years for the Australian Electoral Commission to deliver the referendum, including $10.6m to produce information pamphlets for the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cases for distribution to all Australian households; $12m for the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) and the Museum of Australian Democracy for neutral public civics education and awareness activities; and $10.5m in 2023–24 to the Department of Health and Aged Care to increase mental health support for First Nations people during the period of the referendum.

    The Government will also extend a previous measure until 30 June 2025, to enable the investment of $20m to progress Regional Voice arrangements.

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