The federal government’s big-spending budget is nothing more than a desperate re-election bid, the opposition says.
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese won’t provide an alternative in his budget reply on Thursday night, despite the prime minister calling on him to do so.
Mr Albanese said the government “might as well staple cash to how-to-vote (cards)” for people as they enter polling booths in May.
“It all disappears once the election is over and done with, that’s the problem with this budget,” he told the Seven Network on Wednesday.
“It’s a cynical ploy to get the government through an election, not a plan for a better future for Australia.”
On Tuesday the government announced a one-off tax break of $420 for more than 10 million Australians earning up to $126,000 a year.
The fuel excise will also be cut in half to 22.1 cents for the next six months.
Relief at the bowser could take up to two weeks to flow through, but the excise cut is projected to save a family with two cars around $30 a week – or $700 in total.
Six million welfare recipients, veterans, pensioners, eligible self-funded retirees and concession card holders will get a $250 cost of living payment in April.
This government has been in power for a decade, and just days before an election campaign they're pretending to care about the cost of living.
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) March 29, 2022
In Question Time on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison challenged Labor to provide an alternative budget when Mr Albanese replies to the government.
But Labor senator Katy Gallagher said Mr Albanese will give a speech, not an alternative.
“It will be carefully thought through – and there will be announcements in it – but it’s not an alternate budget,” she told reporters in Canberra.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said the budget is an “act of political desperation” and that Australians would see through its short-term measures.
“The government is hoping if they shovel enough money around on the eve of an election that all of a sudden Australians will forget the damage … done to their living standards,” he told parliament.
Dr Chalmers also said the budget papers conceal $3 billion worth of “secret cuts” that would not be revealed until after the election.
They are listed in the documents under “payment measure decisions taken but not yet announced”.
He also cast doubt on the projected wage growth, with the budget predicting a tight labour market will accelerate wages growth from its current rate of 2.3 per cent to 3.25 per cent in 2022-23 and 2023-24, before edging even higher to 3.5 per cent beyond that.
“This government has taxed more, borrowed more, spent more and delivered less than its Labor predecessor,” he said.
The Greens criticised the budget over the taxpayer funds to be spent on fossil fuels.
Greens leader Adam Bandt also criticised the government for providing only temporary relief for pensioners.
“If we really want to tackle cost of living pressures, we’ve got a deal with the structural problems that people are facing and the country is facing,” he said.