| 05.04,19. 03:16 AM |
Bill Shorten uses Budget reply to promise billions for cancer patients and match Coalition's tax cuts
An expert in political mind games, Bill Shorten preaches that changing government is a vote for stability as the political leaders prepare to end the faux election campaign and replace it with a real one, writes Andrew Probyn.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has pledged billions to support cancer patients and promised to match the Coalition's personal tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners if elected next month.
Mr Shorten used his Budget reply speech to promise to deliver what he called the greatest investment in Medicare in a generation.
He said the $2.3 billion cancer plan would cover up to 6 million free cancer scans, 3 million free appointments with specialists, and affordable medicines within Labor's first four years in office.
"I wish I could stand here … and tell you that we will find a cure. But no politician can give that promise," Mr Shorten said.
"We will continue to support our scientists in their work, we will invest in the research and the clinical trials.
"And until the day we find a cure, I can promise you this. Under Labor, if you are battling cancer, you can focus on getting well, without worrying about going broke."
Mr Shorten said if Labor was elected to government, 10 million Australians would get the tax offset of up to $1,080, which the Coalition announced in its Budget.
Savings are in comparison to tax paid in 2018 and include income tax, low-income tax offset, and low-and-middle-income tax offset.
"Labor will provide a bigger tax refund than the Liberals for 3.6 million Australians. All told, an extra billion dollars, for low-income earners," Mr Shorten said.
"There's always a lot of talk about tax from those opposite, but here is the simple truth: 6.4 million working people will pay the same amount of income tax under Labor as the Liberals.
"And another 3.6 million will pay less tax under Labor."
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's first Budget included billions of dollars for tax cuts, major road upgrades and health care.
One of the biggest savings measures was a plan to change how welfare recipients declare their incomes, which the Government expected to add $2 billion to its coffers.
It also included a plan to flatten tax rates, meaning 94 per cent of Australians would not pay more than 30 per cent income tax by 2024.
Mr Shorten refused to offer support for that change.
He said it was unfair that someone earning $50,000 could pay the same amount as tax as someone earning $200,000.
"This is not a tax plan, it's a ticking debt bomb," the Opposition Leader said.
"It is neither fair, nor responsible to lock in those billions of dollars in tax giveaways flowing disproportionately to a relatively few Australians and so far into the future, especially when you consider the foreboding we see in the global environment: Brexit, trade wars, the write-downs in global growth, the massive increase in global debt, the drop in the 10-year bond yields.
"This is the time when Australia should be building a strong surplus as a fiscal buffer."
The Government has been under fire after it was revealed there had been a $1.6 billion underspend on the National Disability Support Scheme (NDIS).
Mr Shorten seized on that and made it one of the first issues he talked about in his speech.
"We will lift the NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency) cap on staff numbers, so we can get the support out the door," he said.
"We will put people with disability back at the centre of decision-making. And we will get the NDIS back on track."
He reaffirmed education and infrastructure funding commitments and pledged to take climate change seriously.
Mr Shorten has long vowed to restore ABC funding that the Coalition put a freeze on.
In his Budget in reply speech he said a future Labor government would provide extra money to support regional broadcasting.
"Not only will we put back the $83 million the Liberals have cut from the ABC, we'll provide another $10 million to support regional news and emergency broadcasting, particularly in areas affected by natural disasters such as Townsville, Tasmania and regional Victoria," Mr Shorten said.
He also promised to offer dairy farmers greater support, restore the health of the Murray-Darling Basin and invest in eliminating mobile phone black spots.
The House of Representatives sitting week ended immediately after Mr Shorten's speech.
It is unlikely to return for its next scheduled sitting week on April 15, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison expected to imminently announce a federal election.