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Date: 
Monday, 8 April, 2019 - 13:30
Category: 
Industry news
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National News

The 2019 Australian Federal Government Budget –

agency funding from a Workplace Health and Safety Perspective

Nathan Winter, Chair of the Finance, Risk, Audit and Compliance Committee of the Board of the Safety Institute of Australia, has dug in to the Portfolio Budget Statements for each of the safety related Federal Government Agencies. He has done so again this year to provide a baseline funding overview of the Federal Budget from a health and safety perspective – an area which is generally not covered well by mainstream media.

 

This year’s budget from a health and safety perspective is overall, unremarkable.

From the Portfolio Budget Statements, we can see the following:

  • Safe Work Australia’s “Total Resourcing Budget” for FY20 (1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020) increases slightly (0.3 of one percent) to $35.216m compared with $35.1m estimated actuals in FY19.  Own source service income (rather than a Federal Budget appropriation) provides $10.5m of the FY20 total. Headcount (average full time equivalent) remains unchanged at 101. Employee expenses are budgeted to increase slightly from $12.74m in FY19 to $13.041m in FY20.
  • Comcare, the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission, and the Seafarers Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Authority present budgets for a “Total Net Resourcing” decrease of $154m (10.8%) compared with the FY19 budget and a decrease of $150m (10.6%) compared with the FY19 estimated actuals. Total net resourcing falls from $1,415.680m to $1,265.947m and cash from $1,028m to $979m. Most of this has been accumulated from employers’ premiums needed to pay future claims. Budget funding from the Federal Government decreases from $66.072m to $61.177m. The average staffing level is budgeted to remain the same at 630 people while employee expenses increase slightly from $68.925m to $70.186m. $50m of the decrease in “Total Net Resourcing” is a result of a reduced opening cash reserve balance for FY20, and a $96m decrease in “Funds from other sources” compared with FY19, which is largely as a result of “the exit of the ACT Government from Comcare’s premium scheme and other favourable movements in claims experience”. The annual appropriation for asbestos is unchanged at $4.7m but departmental asbestos grants are budgeted to fall from $30.696m to $26.886m.
  • The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency “Total Resourcing” Budget for FY18 is down $0.2m (2.5%) on the FY19 Budget which is essentially flat compared to the FY19 estimated actuals with the same average staffing level of 12 people.
  • The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) “Total Net Resourcing” is budgeted to increase by $5.8m (12.5%) on the FY19 budget, largely as a result of $3.5m higher opening cash reserves balance than budgeted for in FY19, but a decrease by $2.7m (4.9%) against the FY19 estimated actuals, again with $1m of that as a result of changes to the opening balance of cash reserves for the Authority. Net resourcing is budgeted to fall from $55.119m to $52.416m. However, average staffing levels are budgeted to increase by 23 people to 135 in line with the FY19 budget. NOPSEMA is mostly funded by cost recovery levies from industry linked to offshore activity and if these are over-recovered cash is drawn down in subsequent years.
  • The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has budgeted operating expenses of $231.5m for FY20 up 1.4% from FY19 estimate of $228.2m and up 2.8% from the FY19 budget of $225.2m. “Total funds from Government” are budgeted to increase $6m (3.1%) in FY20 with total net resourcing down 13.1% (from $295.350m to $256.691m) due to a much smaller opening cash reserves balance for FY20 ($23.171m) compared with FY19 ($65.649m). However, AMSA is still budgeted to run a surplus of $2.1m in FY20 and for small budgeted surpluses of up to $4.9m over the forward estimates period of the next four years. Average staffing numbers for AMSA are budgeted to increase by 29 full time equivalent people to 448 in FY20. Employee expenses are budgeted to increase from $68.354m in FY19 to $69.499m in FY20.  A large proportion of AMSA’s funding is from industry cost recovery levies. However, the Federal Government provides funding for search and rescue (SAR) as a community service obligation (CSO) and this is budgeted to increase from $70.3m in FY19 to $71.4m in FY20.
  • The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) “Total net resourcing” is budgeted to increase from $256.957m to $265.259m (3.2%) in FY20. Government budget funding increases from $168.036m to $176.672m and industry funding from $14.678m to $21.666m. Average staffing numbers are also budgeted to increase by 37 people to 846 based on a one-year temporary approval for an extra 41 full-time equivalent staff. As a result, employee expenses are budgeted to increase from $124.895m to $133.496m.
  • The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) “Total Resourcing” budget for FY20 is down $0.9m (2.0%) against the FY19 budget from $44.491m in FY19 to $43.576m in FY20. Of this, in FY20 operating expenses are $25.1m of which staffing is budgeted to absorb 63% or $15.770m. ATSB funding is mostly from the Federal Government but includes some contributions from the states, mostly for rail safety. There is a budgeted increase in the ATSB’s average staffing levels of 1 full time equivalent person to 108 budgeted for FY20.

In an area of ongoing interest relating to education, The Tertiary Education Quality and Education Standards Agency (TEQSA) is budgeted for a decrease of 0.3% on its FY19 Budget, but an increase of 3.2% on the estimated FY19 actuals.  There is a budgeted increase in TEQSA’s average staffing from 67 to 95 full-time equivalents or 42% in FY20 with budget funding for employees increasing from $8.61m to $11.227m as a result of a one-year delay in implementing full cost recovery.

Similar to last year, a disappointing aspect of this year’s Federal Budget from the Safety Institute’s perspective is the total resourcing provided for the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). Although it is budgeted to increase by $0.9m (1.7%) over FY19 (from $54.296m to $55.198m), this is still a decrease of $10m or 13.9% compared with FY15 levels. Average staffing numbers are budgeted to remain the same as the FY19 budget at 199 full-time equivalent people with employee expenses remaining stable. Given the ongoing issues with the quality of VET sector WHS training, this is a Federal Government agency that would certainly benefit from more funding.

Summarised as a visual graphic these figures are as follows:

Nathan Winter

Chair Finance, Risk, Audit and Compliance Committee (FRACC)

Safety Institute of Australia