A Dutton government, would, the Opposition Leader told Parliament on Thursday, enact the following policies:
- Double the funding to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation
- Impose a tax on the cost of importing a container to Australia
- Ban bookmakers from running ads during televised sporting fixtures
- Commit $4 million in funding to ovarian cancer.
Last year Mr Dutton’s debut budget reply speech was based almost exclusively on scepticism about renewable energy in a break with the tradition of recent years that has had opposition leaders propose a positive agenda.
With his agenda on the table, Mr Dutton – who has sought to shake off comparisons to his predecessor Tony Abbott and epithets like “Dr No” framing him as reflexively negative – mounted an attack on the budget.
“The Albanese government’s Big Australia approach will make the cost-of-living crisis and inflation worse,” he said.
“It’s the biggest migration surge in our country’s history and it’s occurring amid a housing and rental crisis. Australians are struggling to rent or purchase a property now.”
Budget figures forecast record migration in coming years, including 315,000 migrants next year and 260,000 the following.
But experts say that this has not been a break with immigration policy settings, including the higher figures forecast while Mr Dutton was in the home affairs portfolio but which were interrupted by the pandemic.
“Net migration over five years from 2023-24 will be lower than forecast by Frydenberg in the 2019 ‘back in black’ budget,” said Abul Rizvi, an immigration policy expert.
The Opposition Leader called for “sensible” management of immigration, but did not present an alternative policy statement.
Mr Dutton supported only part of the government’s $14 billion cost-of-living payments in the budget, such as the increase in Medicare bulk-billing subsidies, but did not mention an increase of $40 a week in the base rate of JobSeeker.
“The Treasurer’s cost-of-living relief is only temporary. That temporary relief is targeted at Australians on welfare but at the expense of the many, including Labor’s working poor. It’s a Band-Aid now, but much more pain later,” Mr Dutton told Parliament on Thursday.
“Temporary relief is targeted at Australians on welfare, but at the expense of the many.”
Mr Dutton said he supported other initiatives including increasing aged-care funding and raising the threshold for single-parent payments.
He warned there was still time for Labor to dump the Coalition’s Stage 3 tax cuts for high-income earners.
“Labor has been silent on its promise to keep Stage 3,” he said.
Mr Dutton borrowed a line from American politics and asked Australians if they were better off than they had been at the last election, just under one year ago.
“You deserve a far better government. And that’s exactly what you will get under a Coalition government I lead,” he said.