Backlash has come thick and fast in response to the Andrews Government’s latest budget, which has cemented Victoria’s position as the most in-debt and highest-taxed state in Australia.
The budget, unveiled on Tuesday, slugged businesses and homeowners with new taxes to wipe $30 billion of Victoria’s Covid-19 debt over the next 10 years. The ‘Covid Debt Levy’, the government estimates, will raise an estimated $8.6 billion by 2026-27.
Premier Daniel Andrews’ government handed down its latest budget on Tuesday, which included a plan to pay off a massive Covid debt. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie
And yet, despite the decade-long repayment plan, the Andrews government’s budget papers estimate Victoria’s net debt — sitting at $116.7 billion this year — will grow to $171.4 billion in four years’ time.
It has prompted critics to slam the government for, once again, shirking responsibility for its “big spending culture and waste” during the pandemic and big-ticket election promises onto the shoulders of its constituents.
And one remark made by Premier Daniel Andrews almost six months ago has come back to haunt him.
Speaking to the Australian Financial Review a day before the November state election, the premier rejected the notion that his government was being wasteful.
Ahead of the election, the government had pledged a $96 million package which included giving 60,000 Little Anglers Kits – essentially a package of mini fishing rods worth $1.5 million – to primary school aged kids across Victoria.
At the time, the AFR asked the Premier why taxpayers needed to foot the bill for a hobby that parents could pay for, to which Mr Andrews replied: “Well, if you’re opposed to little kids getting fishing rods that’s fine. I’m not.”
‘”Canâ€™t parents buy their kid a fishing rod if they want to fish? Why do taxpayers need to foot the bill?” we asked.
Andrews shrugged the question off in his inimitable style. “Well if youâ€™re opposed to little kids getting fishing rods thatâ€™s fine, Iâ€™m not.”‘
— Caroline Di Russo (@CaroDiRusso) May 23, 2023
In the accompanying opinion piece, published before the budget was released, AFR deputy editor Patrick Durkin outlined a swath of “wasted” spending pledges including the $15 million Netball Australia bailout, $2.6 billion to secure the 2026 Commonwealth Games, and $100 billion to continue the state’s “big build” through the pandemic.
But those promises, Dunkin wrote, were “small fry” compared to the net debt, with its “interest payments of $10 million a day” — a debt which the premier himself has attributed to external factors, most recently the Reserve Bank’s successive interest rate hikes.
“But (Mr) Andrews has no one to blame for Tuesday’s horror budget but himself,” he wrote.
Radio presenter Neil Mitchell echoed the sentiments in a searing take-down of the premier ahead of the budget announcement, accusing Mr Andrews of “using Covid to cover other cost blowouts”.
“Don’t cop this nonsense about the Covid debt that you’re going to hear – the debt is $165 billion, or will be soon,” Mitchell said, calling it one of three “cons” the premier was selling Victorians.
3AW broadcaster Neil Mitchell lambasted the Victorian government for trying to sell three “cons” with the budget.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also weighed in, criticising the government for treating businesses and property owners “as an ATM over the next 10 years” to get out of its pandemic debt.
Chief executive Paul Guerra said the budget takes Victoria “from the most locked down state in Australia to one of the highest taxing”.
“The Government says this is the plan to pay off the ‘Covid credit card debt’ but they’re doing that by using medium to large businesses and property owners as an ATM over the next 10 years,” he said.
“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.”
Treasurer Tim Pallas said the levies would wipe off $30 billion of Covid debt over the next 10 years, with the new Covid tax due to end in 2033.
â€œTodayâ€™s State Budget takes Victoria from the most locked down state in Australia to one of the highest taxing.” – Paul Guerra #VCCI C.E
Read more: https://t.co/IbhDT0pVplpic.twitter.com/IuoopVkyKO
— Victorian Chamber (@vicchamber) May 23, 2023
“This has been the most difficult budget that I’ve had to frame,” he said on Tuesday.
“This is the start of a new era, the post Covid era for the state and its finances.
“While our kids will of course have memories of the trauma that was the Covid years, they won’t necessarily have to be paying for that trauma for the rest of their lives.
“These measures are temporary, they are targeted, and above all they are responsible.”
Victorians hit with brutal new ‘Covid tax’Big losers in Dan’s ‘difficult’ budget
Those who own more than one home will pay at least $5000 over the next 10 years, with a new $500 annual tax for investment properties with a land value between $50,000 and $100,000.
The payment will increase to $975 for homes valued between $100,000 and $300,000, while an extra 0.1 per cent of the land value will be applied to properties worth more than $300,000.Mr Pallas said roughly 860,000 landowners would be affected by the land tax change.
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