With the election looming, the Morrison Government has revealed it will give almost four million Australians a one-off payment to help cover their next energy bills – a move immediately denounced by Labor as a cash-splash election stunt.
The measure, part of Tuesday’s federal budget, will direct what have been dubbed Energy Assistance Payments of $75 for singles and $125 for couples to veterans, carers, single parents, aged pensioners and people receiving the disability support pension before July.
Newstart recipients will not be included, prompting social services peak body ACOSS to denounce the scheme as “grossly unfair”.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the one-off policy would particularly help people on the age pension.
“This is money that is going to go into people’s pockets to help meet the cost of their next power bill,” he told Nine’s Today Show on Sunday.
“At the same time we are taking action to reduce energy prices.”
The payment will go to 2.4 million people on the age pension, 744,000 people on a disability support pension, and 280,000 people getting carer payments.
A further 242,000 people getting single parent payments will also get the extra cash, along with 225,000 veterans and their eligible dependents.
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“The government is able to deliver this assistance because our responsible budget management allows us to guarantee the essential services Australians rely on,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“This is responsible targeted spending into key areas that lifts the productive capacity of the economy.”
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen scoffed at the Treasurer’s announcement and motives, dismissing Tuesday’s budget as a “highly political document” and vote-buying campaign by a Coalition facing imminent defeat at the polls.
“We will bring down a major economic statement in the third quarter of the year, which will in effect be the first budget of a Shorten Labor government,” he told the ABC’s Insiders.
“We need to reset the economic settings. We need to update the forecasts with the new government in place, and then, of course, we would return to the normal budget cycle of budgets in May from 2020 onwards.”
News Corp reports the proposal was first put forward under former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and was originally going to be part of his plans to reduce power prices before he was dumped.