The 10 most unusual items from budget 2016

Will Antarctica get another airport before Sydney gets its second? Inquiring penguins want to know.

There are often a few surprises on budget night and 2016 was no exception.

Read on for 10 of the most unusual budget measures, some of which the government has chosen, for a variety of reasons, not to put a dollar figure against.

Making hay

It used to be voluntary but now it’s compulsory – a levy of 50c per tonne on all hay and straw prepared for export. The export fodder industry proposed the levy itself to address gaps in fodder industry research, development and extension funding.

Oh, deer

Deer farmers can rejoice at the proposal from the Deer Industry Association to cease the levy from 1 July 2016 on the domestic production and sale of deer velvet and the customs charge on deer velvet and exports of live deer.

Wine, smokes and… lemons up

The price of lemons, oranges and mandarins will rise after the government announced it will increase the citrus levy by $1.50 a tonne – and this is at the request of the industry, which wants to see the revenue raised used to address gaps in citrus industry research and development.

Sunlight

They say that sunlight is the best disinfectant, so let as much sun into Parliament House as possible. This will now be possible thanks to a capital allocation of $18.3 million over the next two years to strengthen the main and side skylights of APH.

Smoke signals

The government will continue to provide funding to defend challenges to Australia’s tobacco plain packaging laws. The law is currently the subject of dispute settlement proceedings involving four countries through the World Trade Organization and an international legal challenge.

The budget papers do not state, however, how much taxpayer money is expected to be spent on this action as the government wishes to protect its position in any litigation.

Pay to avoid airport queues

Another budget initiative where the government is being coy over the costings is the introduction of premium border clearance services for international air passengers.

Initially at Sydney, Perth and Melbourne airports, the government will charge airport operators a fee to provide the service. The budget papers state that the establishment costs and revenue data are not for publication as they are subject to commercial confidentiality.

Cashless debit cards

The cost of extending the pilot of providing cashless debit cards to those who receive a working age payment from the government is also not disclosed in the budget papers. This time it is because the cost is unknown as negotiations with potential commercial providers are yet to be finalised.

The measure, which builds on the New Income Management Arrangements, is being trialled in Ceduna in South Australia and Kununurra, WA.

The idea is that recipients who receive a working age payment from the government get 80 per cent of their payment through the card and 20 per cent into a bank account. Recipients can’t use the card to buy alcohol or gambling products or withdraw cash.

Crime prevention

Gang-related crime is about to be curbed with the creation of a National Anti-Gang Squad – or NAGS – strike team to be based in South Australia. The NAGS within the Australian Federal Police was established to help detect, deter and disrupt gang-related crimes.

The $3.3 million needed is being funded from the Confiscated Assets Account under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

More money for movies

We may see the number of co-produced Malaysian and Australian movies jump after the government allocated $400,000 to allow film co productions from both countries to access tax benefits and subsidies in both nations.

A second airport for Sydney and now one for Antarctica

Antarctica may get a new airport before Sydney gets its second one. As part of a $55 million, 10-year plan to enhance the infrastructure capabilities of the Australian Antarctic Territory, the government will fund preliminary work to develop year-round aviation access to Antarctica (i.e., build an airport) and "support for an over‑ice traverse science capability." 

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