News National We read the Budget fine print

We read the Budget fine print

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The Abbott Government’s search for the missing Malaysian Airliner MH370 will cost Australian taxpayers at least $90 million, according to estimates published in the Budget papers.

While the search will cost the government $36 million this year, Australian taxpayers will stump up another $53.6 million in 2015.

But the drain on local taxpayers might be higher.

The government indicated in the budget documents that the final cost would depend “on a number of factors”, including the willingness of other countries to make financial contributions to the search.

The disclosure of the MH370 search costs is one of many expense items buried in the fine print of Volume 2 of the 2014/15 budget papers.

Another noteworthy revelation not mentioned in ministerial press releases related to the cost of the restaging the Western Australian Senate election in April.

The loss of more than 1000 ballot papers during the federal election count forced the Australian Electoral Commission to run another Senate contest in the state.

It added more than $23 million to federal government’s expense line.

While consumers of education and health services will bear the brunt of the government’s fiscal austerity,  a cursory inspection of the fine print reveals that not all Australians and government agencies will be sharing the pain in the next few years.

There were many winners last night, including advocates of the proposed nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory who have succeeded in putting the issue back on the political agenda.

The government will spend $20 million on developing a business case for a nuclear dump in outback Australia over the next three years.

Despite opposition from Aboriginal groups in the Northern Territory, the Howard Government was considering an option to build a nuclear waste facility at Muckaty Station before it lost the 2007 election.

Although research subsidies for biofuels and renewable energy are to be abolished in the next 18 months, the Abbott Government will boost funding for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation by $30 million.

Another winner is the Australian Sports Commission, which gets an extra $100 million for programs to increase sports participation among schoolchildren.

There were also many examples of strategic pork-barelling in the coalition’s first budget.

Voters in electorates that swung heavily against Labor at last year’s election are now in line for a few goodies.

In western Sydney two new aged care facilities sponsored by Middle Eastern communities will each receive $10 million in special funding over the next three years.

The new facilities are being sponsored by Muslim and Maronite Christian groups.

While the government did not disclose many details about the financial implications of its proposed float of Medibank Private, it did reveal that bankers and advisers on the deal would harvest around $90 million in fees.

Investment banks are in line for a fee windfall in coming years, with the government signalling plans to sell at least four other government enterprises, including Defence Housing Australia Ltd and The Royal Mint.

Spending on Australia’s commitment to Afghanistan and Iraq will continue to drain hundreds of millions from Australian taxpayers, despite a scaling down of military commitments.

Perhaps the most exotic funding item found in the budget papers was $300,000 earmarked for the Melbourne Zoo.

This money will be used to fund a program to reintroduce orangutangs in Indonesian forests.