Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says federal Labor’s budget will do little to help Australians struggling with the rising cost of living.
The Liberal leader handed down his budget reply to the House of Representatives on Thursday night, two days after Treasurer Jim Chalmers outlined the government’s economic plan for the nation.
The budget will be back in black for the first time in 15 years with a short-lived but slim surplus of about $4bn this financial year, achieving what the Coalition was unable to do in its nine years in power.
However, Mr Dutton argued in his speech that the budget would do little for “millions of middle Australians” who “have every right to be disappointed with this government”.
“As a result of the government’s policies, inflation will only stay higher for longer, continuing to grind down real incomes of households,” he said.
The Opposition Leader blamed Labor for the rises in mortgage repayments, gas and electricity bills, supermarket and petrol station receipts, and insurance premiums.
“International factors feed into inflation – like the war in Ukraine – but the main ingredient is the domestic factors,” he told parliament.
He also took aim at Labor’s attempts to bring down power prices, saying it was “being deceptive with its energy policy”.
More than five million eligible households and one million small businesses will get relief applied directly to their power bills under a deal with the states outlined in the budget.
Eligible people who are on the pension, are senior card holders or a recipient of family tax benefits A and B will reap the benefits of the scheme.
Those efforts are not enough to bring down power prices, according to Mr Dutton, who slammed the government’s commitment to renewable energy and its moves on coal, gas and nuclear energy.
He renewed the Coalition’s push for nuclear energy.
“Next generation, small modular nuclear technologies are safe, reliable, cost effective, can be
plugged into existing grids where we have turned-off coal, and emit zero emissions,” he said.
“In the 21st century, any sensible government must consider small modular nuclear as part of the energy mix.”
Support for some measures
Mr Dutton said the Coalition supported select pieces of the budget, including the increased bulk-billing incentives for some Australians, expanding the parenting payments and investing in women’s safety.
The government’s budget increased incentives to be paid to GPs who bulk bill 11.6 million eligible Australians including children under 16, pensioners and other concession card holders.
The government decided to lift the age cut-off of the single parent welfare payment from eight to 14, in a move that’s been applauded by advocacy groups.
An additional $589.3m will also be invested over four years toward the government’s goal of ending violence against women “within a generation”.
That money is in addition to the $1.7bn in the October budget.
Middle Australia misses out
Also in the firing line were the government’s tax choices, criticising the decision to scrap the low-and-middle-income tax offset saying that “around 10 million Australians earning under $126,000 will now be up to $1500 worse off”.
He later told ABC TV’s 7.30 that many families would be worse off as a result of the ending of that measure and other pressures due to high inflation.
“I do worry dreadfully at the moment for a lot of families. I think there’s a lot of people underestimating how much pain is out there,” he said.
“The government really didn’t have any response to them at all in the budget.”
He also said the Albanese government was being coy on its commitment to the already legislated stage 3 tax cuts for anyone earning over $45,000 due to come into effect next July.
“Labor has been silent on its promise to keep stage 3 of the Coalition’s legislated tax plan in full,” he said.
“Our tax cuts will see 95 per cent of Australian workers keep at least 70 cents in every dollar they earn.
“With about 400 days before the tax cuts take effect, there’s time enough for Labor to break another promise.”
Mr Dutton called for a lift in the income-free threshold so that individuals can take up part-time work without losing benefits, without committing to the government’s decision to lift the JobSeeker rate.
“We’ll wait to see how the government responds to what we’ve constructively put forward tonight because the proposal that we’ve put on the table tonight says that somebody on an unemployment benefit could earn considerably more than $40 through ten hours of work a fortnight
Mr Dutton argued that employment decisions made in the budget “risks creating a generation of working poor Australians”.
More than 1.1 million of the most vulnerable Australians will benefit from a $40 per fortnight boost to their welfare payment from September if parliament agrees.
The raised base rate will be applied to people receiving JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment (partnered), ABSTUDY, Disability Support Pension (Youth) and Special Benefit.
Mr Dutton said the predicted population increase from net overseas migration will increase by 1.5 million people over five years, which will cause the housing and rental crisis to worsen.
“The government is now proposing to bring in almost 6000 people per week, which will make a bad situation worse,” he said.