Dutton hits Labor on cost of living, migration in budget reply speech
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has argued Labor's budget doesn't do enough to address the rising cost of living and ramped up his attacks over migration and support for middle-income earners.
The Coalition leader argued the "backbone of our country" would be left worse off, accusing Labor of governing for the few with a budget that heavily targeted cost-of-living relief at the country's most vulnerable people.
In his budget reply speech on Thursday night, he blamed the worst of inflation, which the government says is predominantly down to external issues such as the war in Ukraine, on domestic issues, and claimed the "big-spending" budget – which is the first in surplus in more than a decade – would make it worse.
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Dutton pledged support for Labor's boosts to aged care funding, bulk-billing incentives, the single parenting payment, and JobSeeker payments for the over-55s.
But he was less positive about the broader $40-a-fortnight unemployment payment increase, instead calling for Labor to increase how much people can earn in part-time work before their payments are affected.
"The best way to ensure Australians are getting ahead will always be a job," he said.
In an escalation of the opposition's rhetoric over migration predictions, he sought to tie the influx to wider concerns about housing and infrastructure.
"Amidst a housing and rental crisis, our migration numbers will increase massively by 1.5 million people over five years – the highest number in our country's history and more than the population of Adelaide," he said.
"Without addressing housing supply and infrastructure, where will these people live?"
Dutton said his party would sensibly manage migration, but didn't suggest a five-year target he would be comfortable with, instead reiterating his support for allowing Australians to dip into their super to buy a home as a fix for housing concerns.
Hours earlier in parliament, Prime Minister Albanese had pointed to comments from Dutton last year backing an increase to the permanent migration cap.
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The opposition leader also hammered Labor's energy relief, which will hand five million Australians up to $500 to help pay their bills.
"Despite the government's energy policies, your electricity bill is still going up by more than $500," he said, before hammering Labor over a promise made before Russia invaded Ukraine, sending worldwide gas prices soaring.
"Yet, you were promised on 97 occasions by this prime minister they would go down by $275."
Labor, he argued, should be betting on nuclear power – and giving more credit to the resources industry for its 15-year first budget surplus forecast – rather than renewable energy to drive energy prices down.
"Next generation, small modular nuclear technologies are safe, reliable, cost-effective, can be plugged into existing grids where we have turned-off coal, and emit zero emissions," he argued.
On its own measures, Dutton said the Coalition would move to ban broadcast sports betting advertising during games and and supported a review of women-specific health items on the Medicare Benefits Schedule and corresponding treatments on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
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