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Put up budget policy or sit down: Labor

The federal government has told the opposition to either offer constructive policies or get out of the way of the upcoming budget.

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said the opposition’s criticism wasn’t offering anything to address the cost of living.

“They gave up on governing and now it appears they are giving up on forming the policy basis for a new government,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“If the coalition hasn’t got any policies of its own, they should get out of the way of the government implementing its policies.”

The comments came after Opposition finance spokeswoman Jane Hume said the government should wind back and re-prioritise spending in the upcoming budget to ease cost of living pressures.

She said the October budget to be handed down by Labor Treasurer Jim Chalmers should include “more cautious spending”.

“It’s time that the Labor government consider the priorities of that spending, and whether it is a good idea to go ahead with it,” she told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

“I would like to see a very cautious budget and I would like to see Labor re-prioritise their spending commitments.”

Senator Hume said the coalition would be “very open-minded” about the government’s spending commitments but didn’t commit to supporting its signature policy to cut childcare costs.

“We would like to be constructive with the government,” she said.

“I haven’t seen the details of it.

“They say it is a productivity measure. Let’s check that out. They say it is a participation measure. That may well only be at the margins.”

This week the government will release the final budget outcome for the 2021/22 financial year and Dr Chalmers has foreshadowed a $50 billion improvement to the projected deficit of about $80 billion, on the back of higher revenues.

But the treasurer has also pointed to continued household stress due to high inflation and rising interest rates. He’s warned the improvement won’t last as it’s primarily based on high commodity prices and tax receipts and lower-than-expected spending on government programs.

Senator Hume said the forecast better-than-expected bottom line for 2021/22 was a testament to the former coalition government’s economic management.

“That’s because the coalition government left the economy in good shape, left the budget in an improving position,” she said.

She also claimed the former government had a path back to surplus, despite the most recent forward estimates showing sustained deficits in the tens of billions out to 2025/26.

“(It was) after the forwards but it was a credible plan back to surplus,” Senator Hume said.

Mr Jones also attacked his predecessor’s management of the budget, after it was revealed more than $6 billion of allocated spending weren’t factored in.

“What we didn’t expect was that so many of the promises the former government had made, so many of the ongoing programs the former government had in place, were not actually funded,” he said.

“Just about every portfolio, significant ongoing programs not funded, has made the job of budget repair even harder.”

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