Josh Frydenberg’s Budget Speech Promises The World But Delivers Very Little

Frydenberg said a lot more than he probably meant to.

Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images

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Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has delivered his annual Budget Speech, revealing how the Morrison Government plans to tackle the inflated cost of living, provide disaster relief for flood-affected communities, and meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In a speech delivered to Parliament at 7.30pm on Tuesday night, Frydenberg asserted that despite the war in Europe, floods across the east coast of Australia, and the pandemic, “Australia remains resilient” and “Australians remain strong”.

Frydenberg’s speech covered the Budget’s key agenda items but if you read between the lines, it said a whole lot more than that.

Fuel Is Finally Getting Cheaper, But Only Temporarily

As was expected after weeks of speculation, a major talking point in Frydenberg’s speech was addressing the growing cost of living in Australia, which wage growth has — this far — failed to keep up with.

“Higher fuel, food, and shipping costs are increasing inflation and stretching household budgets,” said Frydenberg, notably failing to mention that a severe lack of wage growth has made the problem exponentially worse, as we await the government’s empty promises of low unemployment resulting in higher wages.

“Tonight the Morrison Government announces a new temporary, targeted, and responsible cost of living package to ease these pressures.”

In what Frydenberg called “practical measures that will make a difference”, he noted that the fuel excise will be halved to 22 cents per litre for the next six months, effective from midnight on Tuesday.

According to government estimates, this will save a family with two cars $700 over the next six months.

While nobody is complaining about what is effectively a 22 cent per litre saving at the bowser, Frydenberg neglected to mention that fuel will likely still be wildly unaffordable, while the government continues to offer very little (see: literally nothing in the Budget) in the way of electric vehicle subsidies to steer people away from petrol.

The LMITO Is Going Up This Year, But Low And Middle Income Earners Stand To Pay More Tax Long Term

Sugar-coating a metaphorical shit sandwich, the Morrison Government has announced a one-off cost of living tax offset worth $420, as part of the low-middle income tax offset.

Frydenberg said that more than 10 million people in the lower tax brackets stand to benefit from the incentive, which has been introduced as a way to combat the rising cost of living.

“Individuals already receiving the low and middle-income tax offset will now receive up to $1500 and couples up to $3000 from 1 July this year,” he said. “This measure comes on top of the $40 billion in tax relief already provided by our Government since the start of the pandemic.”

However, it’s worth noting that Frydenberg also asserted that “taxes for hard-working Australians will always be lower” under a Coalition government, neglecting to mention that a vast majority of Australians will actually pay more tax after the LMITO is scrapped next financial year.

So, while it will benefit you this year — coincidentally right around the same time that the Morrison Government wants your vote — you’ll be out of luck next year, which will be particularly painful if we can’t get on top of inflation in the next 12 months.

Six Million Australians Will Get A One-Off $250 Payment, But The Filthy Rich Stand To Pocket The Ongoing Savings

Frydenberg also announced a one-off $250 cost of living payment, which will be delivered to some six million Australians within weeks.

“Pensioners, carers, veterans, job seekers, eligible self-funded retirees and concession cardholders will benefit,” said Frydenberg. “Together, with existing indexation arrangements, this will see a single pensioner receive more than $500 in additional support over the next six months, just when they need it most.”

…barely cover the cost of a tank of fuel and a fridge full of groceries in today’s economy.

It goes without saying that those suffering from some form of financial hardship would stand to benefit more from raising the welfare rate to a figure that can actually match the rising cost of living, but it’s nice to know that those people will cop a measly $250 — which will barely cover the cost of a tank of fuel and a fridge full of groceries in today’s economy.

But the real kicker is the fact that Frydenberg has led with these payments as a win for low and middle-income earners, while sensationally neglecting to mention the real winners of this budget — the high-income earners who stand to benefit from permanent Stage 3 tax cuts, which will save them a collective $15 million.

So, while the government continues to stress that relief for everyday Australians must be targeted and temporary, they seem to have zero issues with offering ongoing tax cuts for those earning over $200,000.

Frydenberg Is Still Living In The Stone Age Of Green Energy

It’s hardly surprising that the Morrison Government has offered very little in the way of climate change funding, and is continuing to slowly crawl towards our 2050 net-zero target.

Frydenberg again echoed the government’s favourite slogan of “technology, not taxes” leading the way to net-zero, humorously, just before announcing that “clean” energy spending will be dedicated to outdated innovations.

“We are investing in clean hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, batteries, and large-scale solar,” said Frydenberg, promoting “clean” hydrogen and carbon capture, which have both been heavily scrutinised by climate scientists.

In the body of the budget papers (which most people won’t actually read) it is revealed that out of the $446.1 million invested in “energy and emissions reduction”, $50.3 million will be spent on more gas infrastructure and carbon capture.

The Government Is (Again) Spruiking Home Ownership But Won’t Acknowledge How Hard It Is To Actually Buy One

Frydenberg noted that “homeownership is fundamental to the Coalition”, but made precisely zero mention of the literal crisis making it nearly impossible for young Australians — or anyone — to buy a house without a fat trust fund or a particularly generous relative.

Only 160,000 people were able to secure their first home last year — a figure that Frydenberg mentioned but failed to give any context to. But considering the cost of homes in many areas was increasing by as much as $800 a day last year, it doesn’t take a genius to imagine how many homes ended up being sold to property hoarders.

While the government has doubled the Home Guarantee Scheme to 50,000 places, in theory, helping single parents and first homeowners buy properties with a deposit as low as two and five percent, this means very little if we don’t address the cost of housing.

Frydenberg Acknowledges Things Are Shit, But Says We Shouldn’t Change A Thing

In his conclusion, which is (shockingly) not a joke, Frydenberg acknowledges that things have been bad the last few years, seemingly trying to save face ahead of the upcoming election.

“Drought, fire, floods. A global pandemic for which there was no playbook,” he said. “Despite the challenges, our economic recovery is leading the world.”

But despite the fact that it feels virtually impossible to fill up your car with fuel, let alone own a house — or that floods are absolutely obliterating much of the country, and COVID still presents a very real threat to Australian life, Frydenberg notes that now is not time to change course.

“This is not a time to change course,” he said. “This is a time to stick to our plan.”

Lavender Baj is Junkee’s senior reporter, focusing on news, politics, and finance. Follow her on Twitter

Photo Credit: Sam Mooy/Getty Images