By Tanya Faulkner
Treasurer Tim Pallas introduced this years’ budget into a “booming job market and healthy economy” with a focus on Covid economic recovery.
“In this budget [Labor] will deliver on every commitment [they] made; build better hospitals, back our incredible healthcare workers, build new schools and expand free TAFE, train thousands of workers so SEC can provide cheaper, cleaner energy, reform taxes, help Victorians beat the rising cost of living and responsibly address our Covid debt by 2033,” he said.
It was clear what the priorities are for Labor moving forward, as Mr Pallas stated the government “borrowed to keep Victorians safe” during the pandemic, and would endeavour to create a “stronger, fairer, more compassionate” state moving forward.
“We’re not going to cut back the mortgage that’s funding our Big Build, but we are going to pay off our Covid credit card with the Covid Debt Payment Plan,” he said.
“This will ensure finances are managed responsibly so [government] can keep investing in the health, education, cost of living relief, transport and infrastructure that matters to Victorians.”
However, Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said the Government’s plan to pay off the ‘COVID credit card debt’ was using medium to large businesses and property owners as an ATM over the next 10 years.
“It’s certainly a departure from the ‘all in it together’ approach taken throughout the pandemic and this will directly impact jobs and investment in Victoria,” he said.
Mr Guerra did point out some potential positives in the announced budget, including funding for manufacturing, major events, exports, renewable energy and training.
“The Victorian Chamber also welcomes the stamp duty reform and the payroll tax offsets for smaller enterprises, but this Budget will be remembered for job cuts and tax hikes,” he said.
Opposition leader John Pesutto said life was getting harder for Victorian families with higher rents, increases in land tax, hikes in private school fees and 32 major infrastructure projects shelved.
“It fails to offer any relief for Victorians when they need it the most and will put Victoria further behind the rest of Australia as a place to work, invest and raise a family,” he said.
Shadow treasurer Brad Rowswell said this budget will inflict more pain on Victorians already experiencing unprecedented cost of living pressures.
“It’s the wrong budget at the wrong time,” he said.
“Labor wants to blame Covid, the Reserve Bank and the Federal Government for this brutal budget but only it can take responsibility for this debt-driven disaster.”
Monash University politics senior lecturer Zareh Ghazarian said he had suspected this would be a tough budget, and said from a political point of view, it was a good idea.
“It’s the first budget following Labor’s strong election result in November, and the strategy would be to get difficult and potentially unpopular changes out of the way to clear the path for more generous, and politically more popular, budgets in future years,” he said.