The Biggest Australian Budget Ever – IELTS Academic Reading Passage

The Australian government is set to announce some of the biggest ever spending increases in education, welfare, the foreign office and defence at lunchtime tomorrow. After a decade of strong industrial growth, record low unemployment and a booming economy, the government feels confident enough to reinvest some of the funds it has been hoarding since it came to power four years ago.

In accordance with the priorities which were stated when the Liberal party was elected, a very sizeable portion of this bounty will go to education and to schools in particular. Approximately A$1 billion is expected to go on educational building through the Neighbourhood Renewal Scheme. School buildings have suffered shameful neglect for over half a century. The population has grown and education has changed in that time but no new school buildings have been erected for 10 years. But this change should increase expenditure per child from some A$350 to over A$700. A further A$400 million will go on increasing teachers’ pay. There is national shortage of teachers, especially in areas such as science, mathematics and religion. The target to increase teachers in training to 5,600 last year was missed by a huge margin; only 2,533 actually enrolled. Increases both in basic pay and in incentive schemes, such as rewards for conspicuous achievement and cash payments for trainee teachers, will be made.

In contrast to last year, expenditure on health will rise by less than one per cent and the changes here will be in research funding. The most notable change is in funding to the Adelaide Epidemiology Centre which is nearing its goal of marketing a vaccination against AIDS. The Department of Health will inject A$5.8 million for the large-scale, double-blind trials it requires. This compares with A$575,000 invested by the government in this programme last year. A government spokesman explains that, “health will be taking a back seat this year because of the huge increases announced in this area over the previous two years.”

In other areas significant changes are also occurring. In the Department of Pensions and Welfare, state old age pensions, frozen at A$204 per month for the last three years are set to rise to A$255 per month. Unemployment benefit, likewise frozen for three years, is also set to rise but not until next year. Thereafter, rises of 10.5% over each of the remaining three years of this Parliament are scheduled. This is not as generous as it may seem, however, as certain categories of expenditure will be phased out. The Work Now Scheme to encourage single mothers back into the labour market will go, as will the infamous YTCs. The Youth Training Councils received a bad press over the Manning scandal which led to the resignation of the Minister, but there is evidence that these schemes placed in work only those people who would have found work anyway. More importantly, the period over which unemployment benefit is paid has been cut from a year to eight months and this might remove 20% of all claimants.

In Defence and the Foreign Office, there are increases in the funding of the Voice of Australia radio service. The A$128 million may seem a small investment but it checks the reduction in funds from A$2 billion to A$698 million over the last decade which threatened to end the service entirely. A$500 million is being made available for two new warships and a further A$250 million for an extension to the Rapid Reaction Force now seen as so much more important given recent political and civil unrest in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Questions 15-21
For questions 15-21 match the statistical changes stated in the text with a numerical expression. Write your answers in boxes 15 – 21 on your answer sheet. There are more expressions than answers needed, so you will not use them all.

doubletwelvefoldone in fiveone in ten
less than halfabout a thirdabout one in six6%

15 The decrease in financial support for the Voice of Australia over the previous 10 years…………………..
16 The shortfall in the numbers who entered teacher training…………………..
17 The long term increase in unemployment benefit……………………..
18 The reduction in the numbers eligible for unemployment benefit…………………
19 The increase in funding for AIDS research ……………….
20 The increase in state pensions…………………
21 The increase in per capita expenditure on schools………………..

Questions 22-26
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 27 In boxes 22 – 26 on your answer sheet write

YES                            if the statement agrees with the information
NO                              if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN           if there is no information on this in the passage.

22 The Australian government has been increasing expenditure for four years.
23 School buildings have been neglected for 10 years.
24 The Work Now Scheme was unsuccessful.
25 The state pension did not increase for three years.
26 The government has decided to release some of its reserves to improve the lives of its citizens.