The federal government is considering introducing another cigarette tax hike in the May budget, according to reports.
Fairfax Media claimed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was looking at raising the price of cigarettes as part of a desperate bid to decrease the budget deficit and maintain Australia’s AAA credit rating.
But the Labor Party was quick to point out that the government blasted the very same idea in 2015 when it was suggested by the Opposition – with then-prime minister Tony Abbott denouncing it as a “smoko tax” that targeted the working class.
Quizzed about the possible hike on ABC’s 7.30 program on Thursday night, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said smokers would have to “wait and see” if the hike would be included in the May 3 budget.
“The budget will be delivered on 3rd of May. There’s always a lot of speculation in the lead-up to any budget, so let’s just wait and see what will be in the budget on 3rd of May,” he said.
Later on ABC’s Lateline TV show, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen pointed out the move would be a hypocritical move on the government’s behalf.
“I note that the government, after having complained about our policy, has now today pretty clearly indicated they’ll be in the same space on election day,” Mr Bowen said.
A hike on tobacco could earn the government an extra $46 billion in revenue per year. Labor has previously said it would direct that money toward the Gonski education reforms.
When asked earlier in the week if his party was considering the cigarette tax he has criticised so vehemently, former PM Tony Abbott said there was a “discussion” being had, but only the “conclusion of the discussion” mattered.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in the year 2011-2012 16 per cent of Australians aged 18 years and over smoked daily. That figure has been decreasing for decades.