‘Scattergun’ budget misses chance to tackle big issues

by Matt Grudnoff
Treasurer Jim Chalmers during television interviews after the Budget was delivered last night at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, May 15, 2024.
AAP Image/Mick Tsikas


The government failed to make a dent in the structural challenges facing housing, social security and the climate in its pre-election budget, says Senior Economist Matt Grudnoff.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers used budget night to sell the government’s cost-of-living measures – and its inflation-fighting credentials – ahead of the next election.

While some of the measures to support people in need will be welcomed, this budget lacks ambition and a centrepiece, according to Australia Institute Senior Economist Matthew Grudnoff.

“It was a real scattergun approach,” Grudnoff said on the latest episode of Follow the Money.

“Usually, a budget has a theme or a story that a government’s trying to tell, but this one seemed to be all over the shop.”

Increases to rent assistance, adding new treatments to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and energy bill relief are all positive, but they fail to address the underlying issues that are driving increased inequality, Grudnoff said.

The government chose to ignore the recommendation of its handpicked Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee, which called for the JobSeeker unemployment payment to be increased to 90 per cent of the aged pension.

“We have the worst rate of unemployment benefits in the OECD.

“They’ve really done nothing to lift those on JobSeeker out of poverty.

“There’s a little bit for Commonwealth rent assistance…but really what they need is a boost to the rate [of JobSeeker].”

The government also failed to address big issues on the revenue side of the equation.

Already collecting less than tobacco, spirits and beer, the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) will now collect less than Australia’s luxury car tax.

“It’s never been more profitable to be a gas company. Gas prices are super high, they’re making huge profits.

“The PRRT is supposed to, during periods like this, rake in lots of revenue for the Australian public so they get their fair share.

“[But] it’s going down, not up.

“There are so many structural and systemic problems that the government could go out and fix.

“This is classic budget where, ‘oh, it’s a good first step’ – the problem is there never is the second and third and fourth step.”

Follow the Money is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

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