An hour since the journalists were unleashed from the Budget Lockdown, and the early reactions are trickling in. Here’s an early roundup.
Shaun Carney, The Age: “Those who were hoping for a major redirection of the economic and social course of this country under a new government will be disappointed. This budget reflects the gradualist nature of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and most of the Government’s leading figures. It’s fair to say that the budget represents a tentative step towards a very mild form of modern social democracy, built on many of the precepts of the previous government, such as personal choice when it comes to the public/private split in health and education.”
Paul Kelly, The Australian: “The budget reality dismisses the phoney symbolism of recent days. It is not a Robin Hood budget. It is not an attack on middle class welfare. It does not involve a major dismantling of Howard government programs. This trade off between beating inflation and backing working families will make or break this budget. It is highly optimistic. It is faithful to Labor’s political pledges but tests the economic proposition that working families can be compensated at length from the inflation struggle.”
Samantha Maiden, The Australian: Wayne Swan’s budget razor for families enjoying middle-class welfare, including the baby bonus, isn’t quite as sharp as it sounds. While the decision to ban the lump sum for the baby bonus and introduce a $150,000 means-test for both the bonus and family tax benefits is likely to capture the headlines, it also remains a small proportion of the $33 billion in savings measures the Rudd Government has announced. A tightening of exemptions for fringe benefits taxes, new taxes on crude oil condensate that will deliver a massive $3.5 billion over four years, increases to taxes on alcopops and a previously announced decision by Labor to slash tax cuts for people earning more than $180,000 delivers the lion’s share of the extra cash.
Colin Brinsden, The Daily Telegraph: The Rudd government’s first budget is like going to the dentist. There has to be pain now or the future health of the economy is at risk. And like any dentistry, it comes at a price. Rich families, or those on $150,000 or above, will not like the decision to means test the baby bonus and the family tax benefit part B. The luxury car tax will increase to 33 per cent from 25 per cent and a loophole that governs the taxation of executive share schemes will also be closed. Twelve hundred public servants’ jobs are also at risk as part of $33 billion worth of cuts in government spending.
Mark Hawthorne, Courier Mail: WEALTHY families are the losers under the first Labor federal budget in 13 years, with means testing and a tax crackdown helping to build a record surplus and three major new funds for future investment.
Scott Murdoch, The Sydney Morning Herald: Labor has delivered a moderate budget that it hopes will “build the nation” by dedicating spending on health care, welfare and infrastructure while winding back the direct benefits to the nation’s well-paid. The first Labor budget in 13 years has maintained the tax cuts promised during the election and will now means-test welfare and the controversial baby-bonus which rises to $5000 from June.
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The Daily Telegraph: “The opposition will no doubt point out that groceries and petrol will be no cheaper tomorrow morning than they were before the budget was handed down tonight. But it will be hard for them to punch holes in a budget which delivers a record $21.7 billion surplus – well above most predictions – and still cuts government spending.”