Labor will only support the Medicare levy hike for the top two tax brackets.

Bill Shorten says Labor will only back the government’s 0.5 per cent increase to the Medicare levy to Australians in the top two tax brackets, who earn upwards of $87,000.

The federal opposition leader has also committed to keeping the coalition’s budget repair levy on high-income earners, and says his party will back a $6.2 billion tax on the big banks.

Mr Shorten says independent costings show his plan to hit the rich with a Medicare hike will deliver more revenue than the government’s plan over the medium term without burdening families earning modest incomes.

“This is the fair and responsible way forward,” Mr Shorten said during his budget reply speech on Thursday night.

He said the Turnbull government’s proposed Medicare levy hike would hit people earning as little as $21,000 and see a worker earning $55,000 pay an extra $275 per year.

“Labor cannot support making people on modest incomes give up more of their pay packet, especially when this budget goes out of its way to give taxpayer money to millionaires and multinationals,” he said.

Treasurer Scott Morrison’s second budget signalled the end to the two per cent budget deficit levy, which was temporarily put in place in 2014 to help balance the books.

But Labor believes it is not the time to remove the levy, because the deficit for 2017/18 is 10 times worse than predicted in the Liberals’ first budget.

Mr Shorten later told the ABC a future Labor government would consider scrapping the deficit levy once the budget reached a surplus.


Bill Shorten also announced Labor would cap the amount people can deduct for the management of their tax affairs at $3000 in a bid to stop people exploiting holes in the tax net.

“The days of earning millions and paying nothing are over, no matter who you are,” he told MPs.

Labor would also introduce a new set of laws targeting those who “aggressively minimise” their tax by hiding money in offshore tax havens.

Mr Shorten said Labor would oppose funding cuts to universities and increases in student fees.

He also committed Labor to restoring $22 billion he says the government has stripped from schools and the $600 million torn from TAFE.

The opposition will not support setting aside $170 million for a same-sex marriage plebiscite.

“This parliament should do its job and get on with making marriage equality a reality in Australia,” Mr Shorten said.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said Mr Shorten’s speech was full of political rhetoric but short on a plan to grow the economy and create jobs.

“There was not a single policy to strengthen growth, create more jobs or give Australians higher wages,” Senator Cormann told reporters after the speech.

“His numbers didn’t add up. He failed to commit to a surplus in 2021. He seems to be spending some of his revenue measures twice.”