Who says it’s all about getting re-elected: PM defends Budget sweeteners

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says anyone who thinks the budget is only a bid for the federal government’s re-election needs to “read more than the first page”.

Mar 30, 2022, updated Mar 30, 2022
Prime Minister Scott Morrison looks on as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg hands down his fourth budget. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison looks on as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg hands down his fourth budget. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

In his fourth budget, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has promised lower fuel prices and cash to ease cost-of-living pressures.

Revealing a halving of the fuel excise and a one-off $420 tax offset for 10 million low and middle income earners, Mr Frydenberg on Tuesday boasted Australia’s economic recovery from Covid-19 was “leading the world”.

The prime minister said the government’s planned investment in infrastructure showed it had a long-term plan.

“People need to read more than the first page (of the budget) because there’s $21 billion of investment in our regions,” he told the Seven Network on Wednesday.

“More than 80 per cent of our goods exports come from our regional areas, and in this budget is the single largest transformational investment in our regions to grow Australia’s wealth.”

However, the Palaszczuk Government insisted the federal Budget had shortchanged Queenslanders.

“I just can’t help express my disappointment particularly for infrastructure for housing and for health care,” state treasurer Cameron Dick ad.

“We’ve just been left behind again because they control 23 out of 30 seats in the House of Representatives up here and they just put it in the bank and take us for granted.”

But the budget also includes short-term measures such as a one-off $250 payment to be delivered within weeks to six million pensioners, carers, veterans, job seekers, eligible self-funded retirees and concession card holders.

The treasurer said it was about helping change real people’s lives, now.

“There is a need right now for this targeted, temporary, responsible support and what we have done in this budget is seen a material improvement to the bottom line,” he told ABC Radio National on Wednesday.

But Frydenberg admitted the low and middle income tax offsets wouldn’t last forever.

“We aren’t continuing the low and middle income tax offset indefinitely … It was always a temporary measure and we would bring it to an end but actually people are paying lower taxes because we have engaged in structural reform.”

Labor spokesman Jim Chalmers said there were secret cuts to the tune of $3 billion.

“(The budget) has two years of spending that they haven’t announced yet – before the election – and then it’s got three years of cuts after the election, secret cuts,” he told ABC Radio National.

“Josh Frydenberg needs to come clean: what are his $3 billion in secret cuts that he doesn’t want to fess up to until after the election?”

A further measure will mean people will need fewer scripts before they are eligible for free or further discounted medicines.

Small businesses will get a tax deduction for training their employees and investing in new technologies like web design and cyber security.

New apprentices will be encouraged with $5000 payments and up to $15,000 in wage subsidies for employers.

With Russia deploying cyber warfare alongside its invasion of Ukraine, the government revealed a $9.9 billion spend on the Australian Signals Directorate to put more computer professionals on the front line.

The funding comes alongside a $38 billion boost in the defence workforce.

Frydenberg said the government was spending responsibly, with the budget deficit of $78 billion in 2022/23 narrowing to $43.1 billion in 2025/26.

Easing the pressure is the forecast jobless rate of 3.75 per cent, which is putting a lid on welfare

Labor leader Anthony Albanese will deliver his budget reply on Thursday.

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