Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has pledged a Labor government would claw back $71 billion in additional budget savings over the next decade.
Mr Shorten used his budget reply speech to deliver a pitch to voters ahead of the looming election campaign and label the Coalition’s budget a boon for “Malcolm’s millionaires”.
“From Tony’s Tradies to Malcolm’s Millionaires, this is a budget for big business over battlers,” he said.
“I have outlined $71 billion of additional budget improvements over the decade. These are the decisions our nation needs. This is what a responsible budget looks like.”
With many policies already released, Mr Shorten kept new announcements to a minimum.
The new savings would come from three key areas.
The temporary deficit levy on high income earners that is due to expire next June would be made permanent, providing an estimated $16 billion.
Labor would not proceed with the Government’s budget plan to reduce company tax to a flat 25 per cent in 10 years, which Mr Shorten maintains would save $49 billion.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s James Pearson was pleased with the Opposition’s commitment to reduce the tax, but he said he had his doubts.
“His budget in reply speech is a missed opportunity to boost growth and create jobs by giving all businesses bipartisan backing,” he said.
“This is a disappointing attempt to pit big business against small business and the loser is Australia’s international competitiveness.”
The third element of the savings plan is a restriction on the size of Government-backed vocational education loans, saving $6 billion.
Mr Shorten also hit back at the Government’s accusations that Labor was trying to pit low and high-income earners against each other.
“This Prime Minister has the audacity to accuse us of waging ‘class war’,” he said.
“It is not ‘class war’ to disagree with cutting money from families on $50,000 and $60,000 [a year] in order to give millionaires a tax break.”
Arguing against the Government’s corporate tax cut plan, he referred to a merchant bank Mr Turnbull previously worked for, saying: “Goldman Sachs is not a small business”.
And in committing to infrastructure funding, Mr Shorten fired a barb at the Prime Minister over his social media posts.
“Instead of taking selfies on the train, we’ll get new projects underway. Nation-building, not ego-boosting,” he said.
Mr Shorten did not address the $20 billion hole in his party’s overall costings, after it emerged that updated Treasury forecasts downgraded the earnings from an increase in the tobacco excise by a massive $20 billion.
Labor’s VET crackdown
Under the new vocational education savings measure, revealed by Mr Shorten in the speech, Labor wants to impose an $8,000-a-year cap on government loans for private vocational education.
The proposed VET FEE-HELP measures follow a growing list of scandals involving vocational education providers, with claims of unscrupulous operators and students overburdened with debt.