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It’s Labor’s flip: Albo’s budget reply

Labor leader Anthony Albanese is set to unveil his budget reply speech, but the opposition has stressed it will not be an alternative economic approach.

The opposition leader will use Thursday’s address as a crucial pre-election speech, just days out from Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling the upcoming federal poll.

It comes after the government outlined its latest federal budget, which included several measures designed to address the rising cost of living.

Among them was a halving of the fuel excise for the next year, as well as a $420 one-off tax break for more than 10 million Australians, while six million concession card holders will receive a $250 cost of living payment in April.

While the prime minister challenged Mr Albanese in parliament on Wednesday to deliver an alternative budget in his address, the opposition has stressed Mr Albanese would give a speech.

Mr Albanese previously labelled the budget as a government bid to buy votes ahead of the election.

“(The budget) has all the sincerity of a fake tan, and will last just as long,” he said on Wednesday.

“They may as well be handing out cash stapled on how-to-vote cards, but Australians know that once the election is over and done with, it’s all gone.”

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the budget was a political and vote-seeking economic document.

“Five minutes before the prime minister has to call an election, all of a sudden he wants people to think he cares about the cost-of-living pressures that have been building up for some time,” he said.

“For much of the last decade or so we’ve had stagnant wages, which have made it hard for families to keep up with the cost of living.”

But the federal government’s cost of living measures passed the parliament on Wednesday with the support of Labor after a late night Senate sitting – the last time the upper house is due to sit before Australians go to the polls.

The budget reply speech will be handed down on Thursday night, the last sitting day of federal parliament before the election will be called.

The federal election is due to be held by May 21 at the latest, with the election date likely to be announced in a matter of days.

Dr Chalmers said the latest budget contained $3 billion of “secret cuts” that would not be revealed until after the election.

However, the prime minister denied such cuts were being made.

“(Labor) don’t know how to put a budget together, they have no idea,” he told parliament on Wednesday.

“We often speak of net-zero in this place, well the Labor Party is net-zero on policy.”

Dr Chalmers said Labor would hand down a second budget later in the year, should the opposition form government at the next election.

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