Federal Labor has thrown down the gauntlet to the Abbott government over superannuation, vowing to take its crackdown on tax concessions for high-income retirees to the next election.
In his traditional post-budget speech, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen also confirmed Labor would pursue a price on carbon emissions, but won’t be seeking a mandate for a new mining tax.
He also made it clear that previously-announced super and multinational tax avoidance proposals were “far from the be-all and end-all of the fiscal task”.
Mr Bowen didn’t propose any other savings measures, nor did he repeat Treasurer Joe Hockey’s “ridiculous claim” that the budget bottom line could be magically fixed without revenue measures.
“The budget has a revenue problem and a spending problem following the Abbott Government taking spending to GFC levels in this budget,” he told the National Press Club on Wednesday.
While Labor was still considering parts of the budget, it would support measures that save $2.4 billion, including abolition of the large family bonus.
But Mr Bowen warned that tax breaks on super would soon outstrip the age pension as one of the biggest burdens on the budget, arguing they needed to be scaled back for wealthy retirees.
“I read that Tony Abbott wants to make superannuation an election issue – bring it on,” he said.
The Prime Minister responded by saying Labor was attempting to fill its potential budget black hole should it win government.
“The Labor party should … stop seeing Australians super as a piggy bank that they can raid whenever they are in trouble,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Brisbane.
There were further positive responses to the budget with Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer confidence index surging 6.4 per cent in May.
“They are another indicator that the budget has gone down well … and increasingly business confidence is going to filter through to a stronger economy,” Mr Hockey told reporters in Darwin.
Opinion polls and focus group testing of swinging voters have also backed the budget as imposing less pain that Mr Hockey’s first budget.
Labor frontbencher Jason Clare said such findings did not surprise him.
“Last year’s budget was as popular as typhoid, so anything to compared to that looks good,” he said.
Business Council Of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott said while the budget was “clearly political”, it included some positive measures that business leaders should support to help smooth its passage through the Senate.