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Coalition may support Labor’s cost of living measures

2023 budget supports struggling Australians

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has indicated the coalition will back key elements of the federal government’s $14.6 billion cost of living package.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers unveiled the budget on Tuesday night with measures to lift GP bulk-billing rates, a $40 a fortnight rise in welfare payments and power bill relief.

Speaking in Canberra on Wednesday, Mr Dutton said more funding was “clearly” needed in bulk billing and general practice.

“In principle we support more assistance to doctors to help them see patients, particularly those with acute needs and those that require regular attendance at GPs,” he told the ABC.

Asked about the $500 set to be deducted from power bills for more than five million households, Mr Dutton said the coalition also supported energy relief payments to families, but warned the measure was a “short-term fix”.

Mr Dutton said his party would need to look at the detail further before it would announce support for the government’s welfare payment increases.

The opposition leader remained firm on his commitment to the stage three income tax cuts, and said they would come at the right time, despite raising concerns about government spending fuelling inflation.

In parliament, Mr Dutton criticised the government for its plan to bring in 1.5 million migrants over a five-year period, without increased funding for infrastructure.

“There’s no plan for where these people will live during a housing and rental crisis,” he said.

Mr Dutton described the migration policy as “unplanned” and “inflationary”, keeping interest rates higher for longer.

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor said Labor’s second budget, which the government argued delivered on responsible cost of living relief, was a “con job”.

“After less than a year in government, there is $185 billion of extra spending, which makes inflation worse and does nothing to help you or your family get ahead,” Mr Taylor said.

“Instead, this budget makes the situation worse.

“In fact, with the combined impact of interest rates and inflation, a typical Australian family is $25,000 a year worse off since the Albanese government was elected.”

The $25,000 estimate comprises $20,676 for mortgage increases, $2236 in higher grocery prices, a $564 lift in electricity bills and $1500 from the low and middle income tax offset.

Mr Taylor said the budget confirmed no growth in real wages this year and a rising cost of living.

He said gas and electricity bills were still forecast to rise, despite Labor promising at the election to lower them.

Nationals leader David Littleproud said the budget confirmed a new “food tax” – a levy on farmers, importers and travellers to cover a boost in biosecurity spending.

Mr Littleproud said the levy, coupled with higher road user charges for truckies, would lead to higher grocery prices.

He also took aim at changes to regional grant programs and the abandoning of dam projects.

Mr Dutton will deliver his budget reply speech on Thursday.

– AAP

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