As the Government unveiled a cautious Budget, one line caught the eye.
There are $3.2 billion-worth of “decisions taken but not yet announced”, with $2.66 billion of that appearing in 2022-23.
That’s because there are still around five weeks until the election, and Scott Morrison will want to unveil vote-winning policies throughout the campaign period.
Mr Morrison told MPs on Tuesday he was “undecided” about calling the election for May 11, 18 or 25, but most expect him to visit the Governor-General between Friday and Sunday to choose the former.
There has to be a minimum of 33 days campaigning before voters head to the polls, and the Prime Minister will want to be able to unveil some tempting election promises.
But it won’t appease those who already know they are facing cuts, from scientists losing money for research to people losing money from the NDIS because of a surplus “built on the backs of disabled people”, according to the Greens.
A $4.2 billion deficit is forecast for 2018-19 but the Government is predicting the first surplus in a decade for 2019-20, at $7.1 billion.
Leigh Sales confronted Treasurer Josh Frydenberg over his claim the Budget was “back in the black”, with the 7.30 host pointing out, “it’s actually still in the red.”
Mr Frydenberg said the Coalition “inherited a Budget that was out of control”.
He also announced tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners, with a single-income family expected to keep an extra $1000 from tax time this year. “We want to give people more money in their pocket with tax cuts, which we do at every opportunity,” he told ABC News Breakfast.
He also wants to lower the 32.5 per cent tax rate to 30 per cent from mid-2024, but Labor pointed out the tax threshold promise will not kick in for another five years.
The ALP has promised to roll out a much bigger tax cut package if elected. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said the Government’s proposal was less generous to workers on incomes below $40,000 than the ALP’s offering.
“Labor’s tax plan is about taxing some people more to pretend they’re providing relief to others; we’re providing tax relief right across the board,” Mr Morrison told ABC’s Radio National program.
The question is whether all this — plus the mysterious $3.2 billion in spending — will be enough to beat Labor, which is comfortably ahead of the Coalition in the polls.
Some Australians took exception to the continual spruiking of the Budget being returned to surplus by Mr Morrison, hammered home in Mr Frydenberg’s speech.
“Liberals have been telling us for years a surplus is coming, they are still saying the same thing,” said one Twitter user.
“(A) fake surplus should fit nicely with Scott Morrison’s fake climate change policy, fake energy policy, fake environment policy, fake save the reef policy and fake wages policy,” Sean Bradbery tweeted. “They delivered on the fake NBN after all.”
Others were impressed by the tax cut cash splash.
“Wow they really are opening the wallets to win votes,” said news.com.au reader Christopher Blair on Facebook.
Dean Marsland commented: “Some people getting $550 relief. I hope that $10.50 extra per week, sorts those bills out.”
Others said: “Finally middle income earners get a break … It’s been a long time coming.”