Gross debt is growing to more than $1.1 trillion in the next few years, up from $904 billion currently.

Net debt is growing faster still, hitting $697b in 2026-27, up from $552b this coming financial year.

The underlying cash balance - i.e. the budget surplus/deficit - is in positive territory at $9.3b for 2023-24 but overall is expected to be in the red $112.8 billion over the next four financial years. 

Interest paid on government debt will be $92.4b over the next four years to 1.1% of GDP, rising at a faster rate than the cost blowout in the NDIS. 

The income tax take will increase from $296b this financial year to more than $345b in 2027-28, and the tax cuts coming barely return any of the bracket creep since the government came to power.

Government coffers were so good right? So who put the turd in the punchbowl? 

While there are some big kahunas adding to the cost base, here are some quaint little humdingers you might not have noticed.

$11 million scams and identity theft app

Like a lot of stuff in the budget, we're light on details; but there's going to be 11 big ones spent on a one-use app.

No word on who gets this contract or if $11 million is appropriate yet.

"The Albanese Government has also invested an additional $11 million in the 2024-25 Budget for a mobile app and secure website that will enable all Australians to easily and swiftly protect their identity credentials from cyber criminals, building on the success of the Credential Protection Register," the Attorney General's media statement read.

The Register "stops the verification of known compromised credentials (i.e. credentials that have been subjected to a data breach".

Zach Simone, an app developer who runs Harbour City Software and fuel-finder app Petty, said the increased funding is a good thing.

"The sooner someone is informed that their details are compromised, the better. An app with the ability to notify you in real-time could mean that you are able to lock down or cancel the compromised identification possibly before anyone has a chance to use the compromised details," he told Savings.com.au.

"It also potentially decreases the value of any stolen identities, which could act as a deterrent to these kinds of scams. If it works well I could see the project being a step forward in the fight against identity theft and fraud. It won't stop everything, but could be a positive step forward."

While noble, one look at haveibeenpwned.com reveals most - or at least many - emails have been involved in a data breach at some point.

My own personal email that I primarily use for junky marketing sign-ups has been 'pwned' nine times - i.e. involved in nine breaches - some older than 10 years for sites I've long forgotten about.

No doubt that via using the Register, this could make it harder for potential scammers and hackers - but also adds an extra layer of friction and frustration for the everyday user. 

Naturally, the banks are all for it, as the app forms part of a $300 million-plus package to fight scams, and ostensibly takes the heat off banks.

“Progress is being made in the war against scams with financial losses falling by 13% in 2023, but there is still more work to be done and banks will continue to work with government and other industries in the scams chain to drive scammers out of Australia," Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh said.

And in any case, it couldn't have stopped our poor old mate Peter Gaal from losing $500 to a Pay ID scam.

More dosh for ACCC for its first 'C' 

Expenditure will increase for the competition watchdog (the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) from $266 million this financial year to $301 million in 2024-25. 

Staffing will go from 1,560 to 1,719. Good time to get on Seek if you're a public servant!

Part of this is for a new dawn called 'Competition Reform'.

"This measure will provide funding to implement a mandatory and suspensory administrative merger control system to prevent harmful mergers, maintain competition, and increase transparency," Budget papers read.

No doubt the ACCC is peeved about all the bank mergers that have happened recently. Like chewing steak through a tennis racquet, they've been totally unable to make inroads. 

They were also pantsed at the Competition Tribunal earlier this year when a review showed that ANZ could in fact acquire Suncorp in a blockbuster deal.

Let's recap the last couple of years shall we:

And probably more I may have missed. 

I reached out to payments expert and former Citi and Diners Club executive, Grant Halverson, to get his take.

"NAB and Visa [NAB's payments partner] have clearly pulled off a good deal - Diners was in the Citi deal for not much cash," he told Savings.com.au.

"Most of Diners Australia is [contracted as] the Federal Government's corporate card. Then the government very quickly replaced Diners products with the Visa corporate card and added data services.

"I doubt ACCC even looked at this as part of their ‘supervision’ of the Citi-NAB deal."

Increased ABS funding

Staff at the statistician will go from 2,887 this financial year to 3,119 in 2024-25, coupled with total expenses going from $516 million to $592 million.

A big jump happens in 2026-27 to $726 million to administer the Census. 

The ABS will get a funding boost of more than $52 million over the next five years to improve on data collection and operations.

Recently data has been very choppy, and economists have noted the ABS playing catch up to adjust for changing trends in both retail trade and unemployment. 

For example, in January the seasonally-adjusted unemployment figure jumped to 4.1%, however part of this reason is because many people left work in December but were waiting to start new jobs - hardly "unemployed". 

Retail trade towards November and December has also experienced wild swings due to the nature of shoppers bringing forward their spending to Black Friday, rather than the traditional Boxing Day sales.

ABS spokespeople told Savings.com.au the choppy data isn't related to funding or data quality.

However, ABS explainer material notes that in the case of the labour force survey, trend data has been a more reliable indicator than 'seasonal adjustment' in times of volatility, due to the nature of survey sampling - the very thing the funding is trying to improve.

While not directly related to consumer finances, the ABS is relied upon by government and the RBA to make informed policy decisions, which affect households' bottom lines. 


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