Labor’s promises to add $7.4bn to budget


Federal Labor has released the cost of the promises it has made during the six-week election campaign, which it says will add $7.4 billion to the budget bottom line over the next four years.

It means the budget deficit for the 2022/23 financial year will be $79.1 billion.

This compares with the $77.9 billion as forecast in the pre-election economic and fiscal outlook independently produced by the departments of Treasury and Finance in the early days of the campaign.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said a Labor government would invest in child care, in training and education, and in cleaner and cheaper energy.

“Our investments will generate an economic dividend – every dollar of difference between us and the government is carefully calibrated to deliver a bigger economic return,” Dr Chalmers said in Canberra on Thursday, just days out from Saturday’s election.

Labor’s finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher said the $18.9 billion of investments over the forward estimates would be partly offset by $11.5 billion in budget improvements over the same period.

“This is the responsible approach to budget management that the Australian people deserve from the government, and it is a real contrast to a tired government that has rorted and wasted millions of dollars,” she said.

“We do not have the luxury of burying and hiding billions of dollars in various slush funds, as Scott Morrison likes to do. The Australian people deserve a government that is better than that.”

Labor’s costings include plans to crack down on multinational companies not paying their fair share of tax, public sector efficiencies and fees for foreign investment screening.

Its promises will also be partly funded by winding back $750 million in taxpayer-funded grants it links to “waste and rorts” under the Morrison government, as well as $560 million in penalties for corporate anti-competitive behaviour.

Labor will not seek to bolster the public service efficiency dividend, as the Coalition has promised in a bid to save an extra $1 billion off the budget bottom line.

Dr Chalmers said Labor would seek to address workforce shortages through training and increased participation in addition to skilled migration.

Labor believes its commitments are modest and represent no more than an additional 0.4 per cent of the total budget in any year of the forward estimates but will deliver significant and meaningful ongoing cost of living relief and long-term economic benefits.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quick to lash the Labor figures.

“I think Australians think $7.4 billion is a lot of money. It is a lot of money,” he said.

“What does all that do? Labor borrowing more, spending more, it puts pressure on interest rates. It puts pressure on inflation. It drives up the cost of living.”

Mr Morrison said budget repairs after the last Labor government took six years.

He said the jobless rate at a 48-year-low of 3.9 per cent – confirmed in data released on Thursday – as evidence the government’s economic plan was working.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the numbers were based on the three key policies that would produce an economic dividend.

“This is the most wasteful government since Federation. This government has spent more, borrow more and taxed more than the previous Labor government,” he said.

“What we have said clearly, there will be further savings from the waste and the rorts that are there in the budget.

“We will have an audit conducted by the Department of Treasury and the Department of Finance. We will go through line by line, not just this budget, but that is what good government should do every budget.”

Mr Albanese cited the Coalition’s $5.5 billion payment to cancel the French submarine contract, $20 billion in JobKeeper payments to businesses whose profits rose during the pandemic and $1 billion in government advertising.

-with AAP

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