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Labor to match Liberals on tax cuts, will boost Medicare

Bill Shorten delivers his budget reply. Image: Getty

Bill Shorten is promising voters billions of extra dollars for health and bigger personal income tax cuts for low income workers if Labor wins the next election.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has accused the opposition leader of “misrepresenting and politically weaponising” disability services in his budget-reply speech.

Mr Shorten was scathing of the government’s handling of the National Disability Insurance Scheme on Thursday night, promising to lift a staffing cap at the agency and overhaul its administration.

The prime minister said the NDIS was a demand-driven program with full, uncapped funding.

“I’m very disappointed, very disappointed, that the Labor Party and Bill Shorten have once again sought to misrepresent and politically weaponise the issue of disabilities,” the prime minister said on Friday.

“This is a matter that should bring all Australians together and I’m disappointed that once again that Bill Shorten is seeking to drive Australians apart and seek to play partisan politics on something as important as this.”

Mr Shorten has pledged $1.2 billion to make almost all cancer scans free and another $1 billion to create 150,000 apprenticeships.

The Labor leader’s budget-reply speech included a promise for six million free X-rays, mammograms, ultrasounds, and PET and CT scans.

“For so many people, cancer makes you sick and then paying for the treatment makes you poor,” Mr Shorten told parliament on Thursday night.

If Labor wins the election he promised to provide new MRI machines to communities that need them most.

“We will guarantee that every single MRI machine in Australia that meets national standards is covered by Medicare for cancer scans, full stop,” he said.

The speech has taken on even greater relevance this year, as it comes just weeks out from an election which Labor is widely tipped to win.

Mr Shorten also promised to match the coalition’s $1080 tax cut for 4.5 million middle income earners.

But he’s gone further for people earning below $45,000 a year, with the lowest income workers getting $350 a year compared to the coalition’s $255.

However, Labor would not go ahead with the coalition’s planned July 2022 tax cuts or the July 2024 changes – which make 94 per cent of workers pay no more than 30 cents in the dollar, with the biggest benefits going to the wealthy.

Not progressing the two coalition tax changes is expected to give Labor about $150 billion to pay down debt and balance the books.

The coalition has regularly attacked Labor after it stopped putting new medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme when the budget went strongly into deficit.

So Mr Shorten has promised to guarantee that every drug recommended by the independent experts will be listed on the PBS.

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