Shadow treasurer Dr Jim Chalmers used his address at the National Press Club on Wednesday afternoon to attack last week’s Federal Budget for delivering “generational debt without a generational dividend”.
Dr Chalmers said that the general feeling among those sitting in the Budget lock-up was one of being underwhelmed.
“You could feel the room absorb the detail and think to itself – is that it? Is that the limit of our national ambitions, is this the extent of our national imagination? Is this all Australia can aspire to: low wages, insecure work, continuing inequality and a generation of debt?” Dr Chalmers said.
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“Last year showed us how rapidly and unpredictably and dramatically the world can change. But it also gave us a glimpse of how quickly we can change, how fast we can adapt to a new normal and make it work for us,” he said.
“How responsive and creative and flexible and innovative our workplaces and schools and communities can be. What a tragedy it would be if a glimpse was all we got.”
While Dr Chalmers attacked the Budget for having “a deficit of vision”, the opinion polls suggest that it has been well received by the electorate.
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The Newspoll figures released by The Australian earlier this week revealed that 44 per cent of voters thought it would be a good Budget for the economy, while only 15 per cent thought it would be bad.
The gap between the optimistic view and the pessimistic view was the greatest gaps between the two measures since the Budget handed down by then treasurer Peter Costello in 2007.
The bad news for the Coalition was that the Howard government was then voted out of office later that year.
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That worrying news was reflected in the fact that the Coalition was denied a bump in the Newspoll numbers with the ALP holding onto a 51-49 two-party-preferred lead over the Morrison government.
The polling also suggested that many voters found the Budget confusing, with 62 per cent of people unable to say whether they would be better or worse off financially from the measures announced in the Budget. A record 62 per cent could not answer the question, the highest percentage since the question was first asked in 1999.
The Greens, who focused their Budget reply on making sure that billionaires paid their fair share of tax, received the biggest post-Budget boost in the polling, jumping from 10 per cent to a post-election high of 12 per cent.
During his National Press Club address, Dr Chalmers also highlighted the lack of wage growth over the next four years, which was forecast in the Budget.
“In black and white, page nine of this year’s Budget confesses to a cut in real wages over the next four years,” Dr Chalmers said.
“The real wage cut for workers is this government’s lowest act of bastardry and betrayal.
“The Budget is a series of unconvincing and ineffective patch-up jobs that do little to disguise eight years of attack and neglect.”
Do you think the Budget will leave you better or worse off? Do you think it will be good for the economy? What do you believe could have been done better?
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