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‘Too lazy:’ Lambie slams PM over $300 rebate

Labor will spend $3.5bn to give all households $300 off their electricity bills and one million small businesses a $325 rebate.
Labor will spend $3.5bn to give all households $300 off their electricity bills and one million small businesses a $325 rebate.

Labor will spend $7.8bn to give Australians struggling with the cost of living “targeted” help that won’t put further pressure on inflation, coupling broad power bill relief with targeted changes to welfare payments in addition to the pre-announced stage 3 tax cuts revamp.

As he handed down his third budget on Tuesday night, Treasurer Jim Chalmers assured Australians “more help was on the way”, announcing 10 million households will be given $300 in energy bill rebates, while one million small businesses will be $325 better off.

The credits will be applied in quarterly instalments over the financial year, and the entire package will cost the budget $3.5bn.


But that decision to give it the subsidy to even well-off households has outraged Independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie .

“I’m not comfortable with people like myself and the super rich out there that got a $4500 tax cut,” Senator Lambie said.

“We don’t need $300. I can assure you. That should have been passed forward. I find it bizarre.

“Are we back in Covid days? We’re just chucking money, left, right and centre. (The Albanese government are) too lazy to do some means testing.

In his speech, Dr Chalmers assured Australians the government’s “number one priority” was helping Australians.

Dr Chalmers said it would help those who needed it, and in anticipation of any concerns it would be inflationary, assured Australians it would not make things worse in the long run.

“What we have done in our cost-of-living package is we have struck a balance between broad cost-of-living help and targeted cost-of-living help,” he said on Tuesday.

“The reason we’ve gone broad with the energy bill rebates is we recognise these cost-of-living pressures are felt up and down the income ladder.

“We’ve found a responsible way to provide assistance more broadly and in a more targeted system.

Australians will have their energy bills reduced in a major cost-of-living announcement. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

The more targeted measures the government has announced include an increase to the Commonwealth rent assistance by ten per cent.

Although below the 15 per cent hike last year, households will benefit by up to $18.80 per fortnight for a single person, and up to $25.06 for families with children, at a cost to the budget of $1.9bn over five years.

Dr Chalmers said it was the first back-to-back increase to the Commonwealth Rent Assistance in more than 30 years.

The government has announced changes to Jobseeker and Commonwealth Rent Assistance to target those who need the most help. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

But despite wide-ranging calls for the government to increase the Jobseeker rate, the government has declined to do so, opting instead to expand the eligibility for the higher rate of the welfare payment.

As it currently stands, only single parents with dependent children and those aged over 55 who’ve been receiving the payment for nine months or more can access the higher rate.



Under the expanded eligibility, “people who can only work up to 14 hours a week will see their payment increase at least $54.90 a fortnight”, a cohort estimated to be about 4700 people.

Dr Chalmers said making the changes to Jobseeker the government had was about providing targeted relief to the most vulnerable Australians, noting that all jobseekers who receive rent assistance or pay power bills would be helped through other measures.

However, stagnating welfare payments has been criticised.

Australia Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie lashed it as the “gaping hole of the budget,” taking aim at Youth Allowance payments which will remain at $45 a day.

“You have an aspiration of wanting young people from lower socio economic backgrounds to go into education and they want to live on something - youth allowance,” she told ABC.

“It should have been done, and it wasn’t done and we’re very critical that this has been a failure of this Budget to not deliver this in the face of a government saying the cost of living crisis was its first priority.”

The government will also freeze the social security deeming rates. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Emma Brasier

The government has also announced it will freeze the social security deeming rates at their current levels for another 12 months, to ensure an estimated 876,000 income support recipients and age pensioners keep more of their payments.

Lower deeming rates will remain at 0.25 per cent and the upper rate will remain at 2.25 per cent.

The government said a single pensioner, with deemed assets of $250,000, would benefit by more than $2300 annually.

Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers handed down the 2024-25 budget at Parliament House on Tuesday night. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Dr Chalmers also announced the government would spend $3bn for cheaper medicines, which includes freezing the maximum cost of PBS prescriptions.

“This year and next year, no one will pay more than $31.60,” Dr Chalmers said on Tuesday.

The cost of PBS medicines for pensioners and concession card holders will be capped at $7.70 for the next five years.

The government will also spend $3.4bn to add “life changing and life saving medicines” to the PBS, as part of a deal with community pharmacies.