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Inflation-fighting and future-making: Chalmers reveals key budget themes

5 minute read

According to the Treasurer, the government is charting a “responsible middle path” between “slashing and burning” the budget and turning it into a “free-for-all” spending spree.

With the federal budget due to be delivered next Tuesday, Treasurer Jim Chalmers has revealed it will be an “inflation-fighting” and “future-making budget”, suited to the “cross currents and the conditions that we confront”.

Speaking to the media in Canberra this week, Chalmers said: “There will be cost‑of‑living help for people doing it tough, there will be key investments in a Future Made in Australia and all of that will be underpinned by the responsible economic management which has been a hallmark of this Albanese government.”

Chalmers shared that a surplus is “in reach”, which, if achieved, will be the first back-to-back surplus in almost two decades.

“Because of difficult decisions taken by our government, whether it’s banking upward revisions, whether it’s finding $50 billion in savings, the budget is in much better nick than the budget that we inherited almost precisely two years ago,” the Treasurer said.

Highlighting the presence of “spending restraints” in the upcoming budget, Chalmers explained it is not the time for “scorched earth austerity”.

“It would not be wise when people are doing it tough and when the economy is soft for us to slash and burn in this budget. This is not the time to slash and burn in the budget when people are doing it tough and when growth in our economy is weaker than we would like it to be,” he said.

“We are charting a responsible middle path,” the Treasurer assured.

Turning to deficits, he said some will be a “little bigger than they were at MYEFO”, while others will be a “little better”.

Chalmers also took a swipe at his opposition number Angus Taylor, cautioning Australians to be “very careful” about what Taylor has to say about the economy.

“In the last couple of days, he has had two quite egregious gaffes where he is either deliberately lying about key indicators in the economy or he doesn’t understand that he is wrong. So, I caution you when Angus Taylor talks about the economy to make sure that what he’s saying has a basis in fact.”

Taylor recently joined InvestorDaily on a podcast where he said it’s Labor’s fault that inflation is out of control, and that “it can be done better”.

“The reason I’m so confident of that is because I saw us ultimately doing better in beating inflation last time we had it,” the shadow treasurer said.

The formula, according to Taylor, is “less government spending” and “less government regulation”.

“The great learning from the seventies and the eighties, which inspired my interest in economics, was that if you get government out of the way, government doing less, spending less, intervening less in the economy, that’s your best chance to beat inflation,” he said.

“We had leaders who understood that back in that era, obviously on our side of politics, John Howard, and in other countries, people like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, they were crucial to beating inflation. But to give credit to the Labor party, I think Bob Hawke was really important in beating inflation, too. And he was a much more conservative person economically than we’ve seen from anyone from Labor in recent years.”

Taylor stated that despite public criticism, the Coalition has opposed significant portions of the $209 billion spending increase since Labor took office, aiming to combat inflation.

“Meanwhile, they’re [Labor] pushing through industrial relations legislation, raising the cost of everything. We know it’s raising the cost of building anything in this country and building houses, building roads, you name it, we’re going to see a lot more of that. You don’t do those things when you’ve got an inflation crisis.

“We’ve got to get back to our liberal principles. That’s how we beat inflation. That’s how it was beaten last time.”

What we know about budget 2024?

So far, the government has alluded to the inclusion of the following areas in the federal budget:

  • Cost-of-living assistance measures for individuals facing financial challenges.
  • Stage three tax changes as well as business tax incentives.
  • Investments in projects aligned with the Future Made in Australia policy and towards making Australia a “renewable energy superpower”.
  • Additional support for victims of domestic violence.
  • Allocation of resources for infrastructure development, such as transport.
  • Implementation of measures to improve economic equality for women.

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja's career in journalism spans well over a decade across finance, business and politics. Now an experienced editor and reporter across all elements of the financial services sector, prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja reported for several established news outlets in Southeast Europe, scrutinising key processes in post-conflict societies.