budget 2024

A Merry Budget to Us All!

30 May 2024

2.7 MINS

Frontpage stories across News Limited papers just days after Jim Chalmers’ Budget revealing that Anthony Albanese was evicting the occupant from one of his investment properties were not great timing for the Treasurer, who had been hoping to get an electoral boost from his months of hard work framing a new economic narrative.

The Prime Minister quickly volunteered that the “changing circumstances” in his personal life (he is getting married in the second half of 2024) were behind the decision to offload the investment property.

But Labor frontbenchers criticising the individual concerned, whom they described dismissively as “the tenant”, for going public about being involuntarily pushed into the highly competitive Sydney rental market, did not help.

Chalmers’ third Budget was aimed squarely at trimming cost-of-living pressures – a $300 energy rebate for all, a freeze on the price of medicines from the PBS and an increase in the Commonwealth Rental Assistance payments.

However, the jury remains out on whether the measures will just add to inflation and make the Reserve Bank’s efforts in that regard even harder.

Opposing Offer

By the time Peter Dutton’s Budget-in-Reply speech came, the gloss had come off the Budget and the Opposition Leader’s big call that, should a Coalition Government be elected, immigration numbers would be slashed by 25 per cent, was the key issue being discussed.

Home ownership was the centrepiece of Dutton’s Budget-in-Reply and it is the key issue beyond the cost of living that is worrying Australians (including those who already own their own home). For many younger Australians, to gain a foothold in the housing market is an increasingly fading hope.

Labor bungled in the post-covid19 surge of immigrants and runaway “students” rushing to Australian colleges and universities in the hope of getting work and eventually residency. The Government is on a hiding to nothing on immigration, bringing in a record 1.67 million migrants over five years without a mandate.

Dutton’s line that the great Australian dream has turned into a nightmare will resonate.

Meanwhile, Labor’s “vision” was all about a “Future Made in Australia” – essentially, a home-grown government-sponsored manufacturing plan to hold in Labor’s hands the regions that are going to be decimated by the withdrawal of coal as our principal source of energy.

Hidden in the Budget, though, are aspects of Labor’s perennial and deeper agenda, including a huge expansion of public servants – 36,000 in all – indicating a massive uplift in the size of government.

There was funding for Qtopia Museum in Sydney – Australia’s first queer museum.

And Anthony Albanese’s pet project – funding to support the building of a Sovereign Fleet – in gratitude to the Maritime Union of Australia for their years of support to his political base. However, the support goes only to lease three vessels.

Stark Contrast

While Chalmers lifted rental assistance, renters who don’t receive welfare support payments or the means-tested family tax benefit don’t get any rent assistance. Amid a national crisis in which rents increased by more than 10 per cent in 2023, that does not go very far at all.

The difference between the two parties at the coming election will be stark.

Labor promises a “big Australia”, more and bigger government, expansion of the public service and a very intangible vision of turning Australia into a “renewable super-power nation”.

By contrast, the LNP Coalition is promising to go back to basics, stripping back government spending and regulation, and a “nuclear plus renewables” energy plan.

Post-Budget polling suggest a high degree of voter scepticism about Labor’s forward agenda, and deep concerns about the level of immigration. And there is a lot of disillusionment within Labor ranks about its first-term performance, especially over the wasted year spent on the Voice.

The Prime Minister’s minders have urged him to “speak less, travel less and reflect more”, according to the ABC Insiders program, which sug­gests some growing doubts about the PM’s ability to sell the Government’s message.

An early election, perhaps this side of Christmas, is still on the cards but, after months of own goals on immigration and border security, Labor is no longer supremely confident about its prospects.


Republished with thanks to News Weekly. Image courtesy of maitree rimthong.

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