There's usually nothing in an Australian budget for the architecture and design industry. And this year is no different.
You would have thought that amongst the enormous cash splash that's being made, that something would be done to address climate change, cities and urban design and social housing. Not only is there nothing in there, but some of the expenditure also sends us backward. Here's a summary:
The brown dogma adopted by the LNP towards climate change continues with no specific funding allocated, either for reducing the likelihood of a 2+ degree increase in warming or for increased resilience when the temperature inevitably rises. The LNP believes in market forces and climate change will remain the ultimate market determined area, waiting for it to be run over by green karma.
Renewables and energy
One area where there is some inkling of the address to climate change is in renewables and energy. Here again, the LNPs predisposition to fossil fuels shines through. The government is putting $643 million over the next four years into low emissions technologies, but the bulk of that (some $539m) is funding for two ‘clean energy’ schemes announced before the budget.
These are concentrated on hydrogen production hubs in regional areas ($275m) and carbon capture and storage ($237m) - a completely discredited technology that has never worked at commercial scale. The Australia Institute and the Climate Council have both pointed out that unless hydrogen is produced entirely by renewable sources, it still contributes towards emissions.
One third of all Australians are renters. And many are increasingly in housing stress, homelessness is on the rise. Despite being a huge social issue, exacerbated by the recent removal of rental discounts during Covid, there is nothing allocated for social housing in this budget. Housing is often thought of as a state responsibility and the LNP redirects queries on housing to the states.
Nevertheless, the federal government directs money into areas such as health and education that are managed by the States, but the LNP has never recognized that housing policy should extend to one third of all Australians and address the difficulties of rental. It has no housing policy other than tax breaks for investors and first home buyers.
Designers are closely linked to the arts, but the LNP hates those lefty progressive types. It gave no money to the arts in Jobkeeper and the same disdain for the arts continues with not a single dollar allocated towards the resuscitation of the arts sector after Covid. The arts was one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic, but it will have to struggle on, on their own. No cash for you.
Another area that the LNP suspects as being full of lefty nerds and subversives, not worthy of support. There's nothing in this budget for the recovery of universities. Whilst they may have relied far too heavily on international students, to their detriment in Covid, they are in a parlous state. Yet no additional money.
The redirection of universities to digital / remote teaching has huge consequences in the architecture and design schools, which have been based traditionally on face-to-face teaching, studio work and problem solving. To that extent architecture faculties and design schools are arguably the hardest hit in today's university economy, with no return to in-house studio likely as the budget ignores their plight.
There's nothing in this budget to suggest that any improvement is in support for tourism, an area in which architecture and design play a great part. This includes the development of tourist facilities, as resorts and recreation facilities, lodges in the wilderness, interpretive trails and so on. Again, this budget ignores tourism, leaving it to its own devices. It is one area in which Jobkeeper has been extended in recognition that it truly died during Covid, and is struggling to come back, but there is no cash support in the budget.
In summary, this budget is no different from the past for architecture and design. But unlike past LNP austerity budgets, this one forgets ‘debt and deficit’ as it splashes enormous amounts of money. Much of it is in areas such as childcare, aged care and for women, which is very welcome. But as the country moves inexorably towards a debt of a $1 trillion, there's no change from the past where architecture and design is almost completely ignored.
Tone Wheeler is principal architect at Environa Studio, Adjunct Professor at UNSW and is President of the Australian Architecture Association. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and are not held or endorsed by A+D, the AAA or UNSW. Tone does not read Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Linked In. Sanity is preserved by reading and replying only to comments addressed to [email protected]