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Labor brands budget ‘political ploy’

Labor has branded the coalition’s big spending budget “more of a pamphlet than a plan” despite a better-than-expected bottom line.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers branded the budget, which includes tax handouts and cuts to the fuel excise, as a “desperate political ploy”.

“Scott Morrison is only pretending to care about the costs of living because he has to call an election in the next fortnight, and he’s running out of time,” he said.

“If this budget wasn’t ruined by rorts and weighed down by waste and mismanagement, there’d be more room to support families and pensioners and invest in the future.”

A one-off tax break of $420 will go to more than 10 million Australians earning up to $126,000 a year. The government will also cut the fuel excise in half to 22.1 cents for the next six months.

Relief at the bowser will take up to two weeks to flow through, but the excise cut is projected to save a family with two cars around $30 a week – or $700 in total.

Six million welfare recipients, veterans, pensioners, eligible self-funded retirees and concession card holders will get a $250 cost of living payment in April.

But Dr Chalmers says the budget papers conceal $3 billion worth of “secret cuts” that wouldn’t be revealed until after the election.

They include $916.6 million in 2023/24, $1.17 billion in 2024/25 and $892 million in 2025/26 listed under “payment measure decisions taken but not yet announced”.

He also cast doubt on the projected wage growth, with the budget predicting a tight labour market will accelerate wages growth from its current rate of 2.3 per cent to 3.25 per cent in 2022/23 and 2023/24, before edging even higher to 3.5 per cent beyond that.

“Having failed to hit 52 of their 55 wage growth targets, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg want you to believe this time they really mean it,” the shadow treasurer said.

“Its defining features are pay that won’t keep up with prices and almost nothing to show for a trillion dollars in debt. Australians need a pay rise not a patch job that leaves them $26 a week worse off.”

The Greens also criticised the budget for the amount of taxpayer funds spent on fossil fuels.

“There is $1.6 billion for renewables, $2 billion for disaster recovery, and more than $38 billion in subsidies to coal, oil and gas,” leader Adam Bandt said.

“It’s an insult to every flood victim that the prime minister is spending more than 10 times more on coal, oil and gas as he is on protecting us from climate floods.”

Mr Bandt also criticised the government for providing temporary relief for pensioners.

“We need to permanently boost the pension by almost $250 a fortnight, not $250 an election,” he said.

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