| 31.03,19. 07:43 PM |
Budget to include one-off payment to help with electricity, Josh Frydenberg denies 'cash splash'
Frydenberg denies budget 'cash splash' (ABC News)
Four million Australians will again receive a cash handout from the Federal Government to help cover the cost of rising power prices when Treasurer Josh Frydenberg hands down the Budget on Tuesday.
The one-off Energy Assistance Payment, worth $75 for singles and $125 for couples, will be delivered to age pensioners, people on the Disability Support Pension, veterans, carers and single parents before July.
Mr Frydenberg denied the measure was a "cash splash" describing the payments as "responsible, targeted spending".
"This is money [that's] going to go into people's pockets to help meet the cost of their next power bill," he told Channel Nine.
The $285 million announcement will be included in Mr Frydenberg's first Budget, and shows the Coalition is deeply concerned about power price, despite its promises to bring them down.
This same "one-off" payment appeared in the 2017 budget, under a deal struck by the Government to get then-independent senator Nick Xenophon's support for its company tax cuts.
It also comes a year after the Coalition tried — and ultimately failed — to scrap the Labor-era Energy Supplement for new recipients, which is worth hundreds of dollars a year.
The Treasurer said it was one of a number of measures in his first Budget that "will ease cost of living pressures", suggesting the Coalition was planning more handouts to lure voters ahead of the election.
During a wide-ranging interview, Mr Frydenberg played down speculation the Budget was set to return to surplus in 2018/19 — a year ahead of schedule.
"We have faced … a number of spending challenges, including the impact of the drought and the floods in Queensland, as well as, of course, extra GST payments to the states," he said.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said the one-off payment was better than nothing, but would not address years of rising power prices.
"$1.45 a week for 12 months is not an energy policy, it's an election con. Does anyone think you'd be getting this if you weren't six weeks before an election?" he said.
"It shows that the Government knows that they don't have an energy policy but they want to pretend to have one."
Labor's economic statement
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen interviewed on Insiders (Insiders)
Treasurer Chris Bowen has already dismissed Tuesday's Budget as a "highly political document" that would double as a campaign launch for the Coalition.
He confirmed that, if elected, Labor would hand down its own mini budget later this year, outlining its spending priorities.
"If we win, we will bring down a major economic statement in the third quarter of the year, which will in effect be the first budget of a Shorten Labor government," he told the ABC's Insiders program.
"We need to reset the economic settings.
"We need to update the forecasts with the new government in place, and then, of course, we would return to the normal budget cycle of budgets in May from 2020 onwards."