Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hints at limited cash splashes, budget sweeteners in 2024 budget

While cost-of-living support remains the government’s No.1 priority, Anthony Albanese says Australians should not expect cash handouts and sweeteners to relieve the pressure on households.

The Prime Minister said he had asked the Treasury and Department of Finance to devise ideas that could be announced in the May federal budget; however, cash splashes and spending would be curtailed to avoid inflation.

“We asked them to give consideration to what are the measures that can take pressure off families on cost of living without putting pressure on inflation. That’s the key issue,” he said.

“If you were just to distribute additional cash to people, you potentially make inflation worse and therefore don’t help to solve the problem.”

As an example, he used the government’s Energy Price Relief Plan, which was developed with state and territory governments to introduce price limits on gas and coal.

The NSW and Queensland governments have set a $125-a-tonne price threshold on coal used for electricity generation. A 12-month emergency cap on gas prices has also been set at $12 per gigajoule for east-coast producers.

“Instead of giving cheques to people, it reduces their bills substantially and we worked that through with Treasury and finance and it made a substantial difference in a reduction in wholesale prices,” Mr Albanese said.

In an effort to soften inflation to a target range between 2 to 3 per cent, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has implemented 13 rate rises since May 2022, with the 4.35 per cent cash rate denting household budgets.

The latest consumer price index figures from September revealed year-on-year household inflation had reduced to 5.4 per cent after reaching a high of 7.8 per cent in December 2022.

Mr Albanese conceded Australians were still under the pressure caused by international events such as pandemic-related supply chain issues and the “illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine”.

He said the government would attempt to alleviate the crisis through initiatives like delivering 300,000 fee-free TAFE courses and expanding the Home Guarantee Scheme to help more people own their own homes.

The Commonwealth will also work with the states and territories to strengthen Medicare and support primary healthcare operators like GPs and urgent care clinics.

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