Infrastructure-focused Budget is ‘steady as it goes’, according to AIRAH

Friday, April 5, 2019

The 2019–20 Federal Budget predicated on solid infrastructure is positive for the business world in general, but without significant impact on HVAC&R, according to AIRAH.

AIRAH CEO Tony Gleeson, M.AIRAH, says the federal government’s commitment to infrastructure projects should benefit Australia in general, and that its goal of a Budget surplus is commendable.

“There isn’t a significant focus on HVAC&R in the 2019–2020 Federal Budget, but indirectly our industry will likely benefit from a continued and indeed enhanced commitment to important infrastructure projects,” says Gleeson.

Gleeson says AIRAH has also noted the government’s investment of $79.2 million over six years for new energy-efficiency measures.

“Of course, the HVAC&R industry also understands the importance of moving towards a low-carbon future, and the role net-zero-carbon buildings can play in this,” he says. 

“Fortunately there is a window of opportunity for future governments to match the leadership of some of AIRAH’s members, who help Australia lead the world in the delivery of net-zero-carbon buildings. 

“Given the built environment accounts for a sizeable portion of emissions, we see this as an essential area of focus for future federal governments.”

Gleeson also notes the proposed change in the Budget for plant and equipment that can immediately be fully written off. The government has extended its instant asset write-off scheme from businesses that have $10 million annual turnovers to those with $50 million annual turnovers. The maximum deduction will be increased from $25,000 to $30,000.

Gleeson says the government’s allocation of a $3.4 million package over four years to encourage higher participation from women and girls in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is a commendable initiative.

“AIRAH understands that for the sake of the profession, engineering needs more women to get involved,” Gleeson says. “So although it’s a relatively small allocation, $3.4 million towards this objective is positive.

“The Institute has made considerable progress towards increasing the number and engagement of women within our membership by forming a Women of AIRAH group. Women of AIRAH not only provides women in the industry with a forum to voice issues of concern, but also works to make HVAC&R an attractive prospect for those looking to take the next step in their career.” 

As part of the Budget, the government has set aside $525 million for a skills package designed to modernise the vocational education and training (VET) sector in response to findings of the expert review of Australia’s VET system.

“This could mean a total payment of $4,000 on top of existing incentives for employers; and a total of $2,000 for apprentices,” Gleeson says. 

“With HVAC&R still largely a hidden industry – despite its formidable size – increased funding to lift apprenticeship rates will be of benefit to the trade component of our industry.”

AIRAH also applauds the government’s new $62.4 million language, literacy, numeracy and digital skills program to provide working-age individuals with the skills they may be missing post-high school.

In terms of the climate and environment, as part of the Budget, $3.5 billion will be invested through the Climate Solutions Package. This includes $61.2 million to support small businesses, local community groups, households and building owners to improve energy efficiency.

“Unfortunately, as with the 2018–2019 Budget, there doesn’t appear to be a serious plan to tackle climate change and transition to the clean jobs the 21st century requires,” Gleeson says. 

“And the Budget is largely silent on funding additional measures to help Australia meet our international emissions-reduction targets and maintain our world-leading position on sustainability in the built environment.”

AIRAH will continue to voice the view that it’s important to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions via the adoption of appropriate refrigerants, integrated resilient design, improved commissioning and good maintenance.

“Although there are some very admirable elements in the 2019–20 Federal Budget, the Institute will continue to talk to those in power about the things important to us and our members,” Gleeson says.

“We will continue to be the leading independent voice for our industry on resilience, sustainability, compliance, innovation, and the transition to low-GWP refrigerants.”

For more information about AIRAH’s advocacy positions, go to www.airah.org.au/advocacy