‘Billions for billionaires’: An educated guess about what Dutton will say in his budget reply tonight

by orderglycogensupport

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton will deliver his budget reply speech on Thursday at 7.30pm Eastern time. But it’s already possible to make an educated guess about what the Coalition leader will say, based on his comments in media interviews and Parliament since Tuesday’s budget.

Immigration 

Dutton’s first question to the prime minister on the day after the budget was about immigration, signalling that’s going to be one of the big focus issues for the opposition. Dutton is seeking to link the country’s immigration intake with the housing crisis, arguing that Labor has lost its grip on both. 

“The fact is that you’ve had almost a million people over two years, and that is what has created a housing emergency in our country,” Dutton told ABC Breakfast host Michael Rowland on Wednesday. 

“You’ve got 1.67 million people coming in over a five-year period under this government. It’s unprecedented, not under any previous Liberal or Labor government have you seen the immigration levels this high, and that means that with an 11-year low in building starts, you are seeing people lining up 30-or-40 deep to find a rental property, people can’t buy a house at an auction for love, nor money and this government’s spent $315 billion more, which has driven up inflation, and, therefore interest rates.”

‘Handouts for billionaires’ 

One of Dutton’s favourite lines since the budget has been that Labor is giving “billions of dollars to the billionaires”. What he means is that the $300 energy bill rebates promised in the budget (and a similar initiative at state level in Queensland, worth $1,000 per rebate) are not means tested and will flow to low-income earners and moguls alike. 

“We’ve got people living in cars and in tents at the moment and the government’s splashing billions of dollars for billionaires. It just doesn’t make any sense, and I think a lot of Australians, rightly, will be very annoyed,” he told Sky News Australia’s Peter Stefanovic on Wednesday. 

Asked where he would draw the line on who deserves the rebate, Dutton replied: “Oh well, Pete, I mean, for example, Clive Palmer, he gets $1,000 from Steven Miles, and he gets $300 from Anthony Albanese…” 

Pressed again on where the cap should be, Dutton called it a “moot discussion” anyway because the money would already be spent before next year’s budget. 

In another interview the same day, with Peter Stefanovic’s brother Karl, at Nine, Dutton said his Coalition wouldn’t stand in the way of the payments. 

“No, we’ll support the money that they’re providing to families because families need that money, and it’s going out before the election, so it’s sort of a moot point in that sense,” he said. 

Dutton needed to find a good attack line against the $300 payments because he’s spent much of the past two years — and indeed a significant part of last year’s budget reply speech — attacking the government for promising in the election campaign to bring down power bills by $275 and failing to accomplish that. 

‘Big taxing, big spending’

Dutton described the budget in an interview with ABC radio’s Sabra Lane on Wednesday as a “big taxing, big spending” one — and warned that inflation and interest rates would soar as a result. The Nationals have used the same phrase in media statements since the budget, and opposition Treasury spokesman Angus Taylor charged in question time the government had “added $315 billion in spending, throwing more fuel on the inflationary fire”. 

In Dutton’s view, Labor inherited “a good set of books” from the former Coalition government and will squander the money in an attempt to buy votes in the next election. 

“They inherited a budget situation, which meant that they’re able to deliver two surpluses, and then, of course, Labor reverts back to type, and we see massive deficits over, not just the balance of the estimates, but then into the medium term and the long term,” he told Lane. 

In another interview, with Sky News host Peta Credlin, Dutton said: “I think they do want to go to an election before Australians realise just how bad they have mucked up the economy and how hard they’ve made it for small business and families across the country.”

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