Cost of living relief to feature in budget

Andrew Brown and Paul Osborne |

Targeted and proportionate relief for families from the rising cost of petrol and groceries will be offered in the federal budget.

While Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said more money would be out in people’s pockets, he warned the government could no longer afford the support levels it provided during the height of the pandemic.

Mr Frydenberg said the upcoming budget would reveal a trajectory where debt, compared to the size of the economy, will peak lower and earlier than thought in December last year.

However, he remained tight lipped on what measures would be implemented to deal with the rising cost of living.

“What we are seeking to do is … reduce those cost of living pressures by putting more money into people’s pockets,” he said on Friday.

The treasurer said economic support rolled out during the COVID-19 pandemic could not go on, with continued funding actually doing more harm than good.

“It would risk putting further pressure on inflation, interest rates and cost of living,” he said. 

He pledged the government would not be “baking in” any new structural spending off the back of temporary revenue increases.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said the federal government could not be trusted on what it says about the economy.

Dr Chalmers said the March 29 economic blueprint on the eve on an election is showing “all the signs of another budget full of secret slush funds before the election and secret cuts after”.

“This coalition government has barely anything to show for the record debt they had already multiplied even before the pandemic,” he said.

“After a decade of marketing and mismanagement, the dividend for Australians is skyrocketing costs of living, falling real wages, and families falling further behind.”

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz said cost of living would be a critical issue not just in the budget, but in the upcoming election, likely to be held in May.

“If you’ve been to the supermarket and seen the price of meat or indeed at the bowser, you will see the cost of living pressures,” he told Sky News on Friday.

“How it will be addressed, of course, will be for the federal treasurer to announce and he’ll do so Tuesday week.”

Labor MP Alicia Payne said cost of living pressures had not been addressed by the government during their time in office.

“This is the ninth budget from this government, and cost of living pressures have been a problem throughout their term,” she said.

“I would expect (the government) will probably have some sweeteners in there, as we are on the eve of an election.”

In its latest pre-budget announcement, the federal government set aside a $104 million funding package over the next five years to prevent technology and devices being used to perpetrate or facilitate family, domestic and sexual violence.