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Jim Chalmers

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Jim Chalmers on the budget Labor can’t oppose

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Jim Chalmers on the budget Labor can’t oppose

The opposition is criticising the government’s “giveaway” budget but, predictably, with the election close, is not opposing its cost of living package, which includes a temporary cut in full excise and billions of dollars for low and middle income taxpayers, pensioners and welfare recipients.

Jim Chalmers is shadow treasurer, and he tells this podcast, “It’s a vote seeker budget in the sense that it’s got a shelf life of six or seven weeks.

"The government is temperamentally incapable of seeing beyond the election, and that’s the difference [with Labor]. I think there was a real appetite in the community for something that said, ‘we’ve been through a lot together. And what does the future look like?’”

Chalmers argues voters will “see through it in the same way they see through the prime minister”.

Like the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Chalmers rules out extending the petrol excise cut beyond its September expiry date.

“I’ve said, to be upfront to the Australian people, it’s difficult to see a government of either political persuasion being able to afford to extend that excise relief forever. We’re just being upfront about it because we believe in being responsible with the people’s money.”

He dodges when asked about a Labor government’s response, after the budget didn’t renew the tax offset for low and middle income earners. But the signal is that Labor would not seek to restore it.

“We don’t want to pre-empt decisions that a future government may take,” he says.

“The reality is this government is going to the election with the worst set of books that any government has ever taken to an election in Australia. There’s not room in our alternative budget, even for all of the good ideas. And so we’ve got to prioritise and sequence and make sure that whatever we do is delivering maximum bang for buck.

"This is the inheritance if government changed hands and so my responsibility if I was the treasurer […] is to weigh up all of those pressures to implement our election commitments.”

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