The Abbott government is trying to shame Labor into supporting budget savings measures it proposed while in government.
Treasurer Joe Hockey says he is giving Labor the chance to honour the promises it made less than a year ago.
“I beg you (Labor) to act on your word … keep faith with what you promised,” he told parliament on Wednesday.
Mr Hockey was introducing the artfully-titled Labor 2013-14 Budget Savings (Measure No. 1) Bill 2014, which makes it clear it’s really an old Labor measure.
The measure, which would save $2.2 billion over four years, repeals the second round of tax cuts and a low-income tax offset increase which Labor enacted as part of the compensation for the carbon tax. They were to kick in from July 1, 2015.
However Labor announced, as part of its 2013 budget, that they’d be deferred because the price of carbon was not expected to rise as sharply.
Although not legislated, this was Labor policy at the 2013 election.
Mr Hockey said the coalition government had twice tried to repeal the measures through its package of bills to axe the carbon tax.
But both times Labor voted against its own budget repair measure, he said.
Speeches introducing legislation are usually sober, with ministers keeping strictly to the usually ponderous script.
The treasurer extemporised theatrically.
After quoting former Labor treasurer Wayne Swan warning against “meandering back to surplus”, he went looking for the surplus.
He opened the dispatch box and looked inside. He looked under the table.
“Where is the surplus?” he asked.
Mr Hockey also made it clear this is only the start of the new tactic of trying to embarrass Labor into supporting what would be presented as its own measures.
The government would introduce a separate Labor budget measure bill for every initiative Labor announced in government and now opposes, he said.
This would give Labor a chance to keep its promises.
If the repeal goes through the tax-free threshold will remain at $18,200 and the second marginal tax rate at 32.5 per cent, while the low income tax offset will stay at $445.