The Federal Budget was a short-sighted attempt to save Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s job, Labor says.
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said the deficit had been doubled by the Coalition government within one year.
And the worst aspects of last year’s budget – the $80 billion cut from hospitals and schools, $100,000 university degrees and cuts to family payments – remained in place.
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“The fundamental unfairness of last year’s budget disaster remains tonight,” Mr Bowen said. “This is a short-term budget to fix a short-term political problem and save one man’s job.”
The budget papers included 17 new taxes, breaking a coalition election promise, Mr Bowen said.
The reaction of crossbenchers was mixed with Palmer United leader, Clive Palmer, declaring Joe Hockey’s second budget “better than last year”, but Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm saying he believed it was “much worse”.
“Last year they had a serious go at returning to surplus,” Senator Leyonhjelm said. “This year they’re not even trying.”
Newly-installed Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, was similarly underwhelmed, saying: “There’s no vision, no direction and no new sources of revenue from the big end of town. This budget takes more money from the pockets of nurses and charity workers than it does the big miners or big banks.”
Independent senator Nick Xenophon was less critical, but still less than enthusiastic. What did he think of the budget overall?
“Close,” said the South Australian Independent, “But no cigar.”
Business, unions have their say
Outside Parliament the reaction was similarly divided.
“Last year the government took a sledge hammer to the budget,” said ACTU president Ged Kearney. “This year it’s a chisel that is cut, cut, cutting away and we know you can’t cut your way to growth.”
But small business was extravagant in its praise.
“It’s a budget extraordinaire for small businesspeople,” said the Council of Small Business CEO Peter Strong. “It’s the message to small businesspeople that the government isn’t just thinking of them but that they know them.”
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Kate Carnell said the budget would “perform a pincer movement on productivity, encouraging more people to enter the labour market while also making it easier for small businesses to hire.”
– with AAP