Bowen, Labor says Government ‘not working for working people’

The Opposition today will savage the Government’s policies as “not working for working people” in a blistering response to torrid Coalition warnings of an economic future under Labor.

It will push the debate over the Government’s economic competence to the centre of its election campaign, and make a pre-emotive strike at the coming Budget.

Government handling of finances will be depicted as marked by shocking neglect and unfairness to wage earners.

And Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen will use a speech to argue the April 2 Budget will be the latest economic statement Liberal Treasurers have got wrong.

Mr Bowen will ramp up Labor’s long-standing demands for better treatment of wage earners by claiming modest economic growth has not reached them and they are stuck with stalled wage growth and increasing cost of living.

“Under the Liberals, the economy is not working for working people,” Mr Bowen will tell the Chifley Institute tonight in the inaugural Chifley Oration.

“Too many Australians are being pushed to the margins, ignored by the Liberals in the suburbs, let down by the Nationals in the regions.

“Squeezed out of the middle class, cut-off from the fair go, denied the chance to fulfil their potential. Not because they’ve been forgotten – but because they’ve been deliberately excluded.

“Not just left behind, locked-out.”

It has been a “government whose economic strategy essentially amounts to the worst of all worlds: cuts to those who can’t afford it, refusing to make the tax system fairer for all, and no regard for a future beyond election day.

“It’s because for six years, this government has put its short-term political interests ahead of the long-term national interest. This is the true state of the economy under the Liberals.”

Mr Bowen will say Australians were reminded of declining living standards “every time they get paid, with wages growth at record lows.”

“The Government might actually be the last people in Australia to realise this,” he will say.

“Because in every single Hockey and Morrison budget, the wages growth forecasts have had to be downgraded.

“And in this April’s Budget, we will inevitably see last year’s Budget wages growth forecast downgraded again, because yet again, wages aren’t growing as fast as they promised.

“Wrong five years running.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have portrayed Labor’s tax plan for negative gearing, franking credits and capital gains as great dangers to the economy.

Mr Morrison has even tip-toed around a direct forecast that a Labor government would cause a recession.

“I’m going to be pretty honest with people,” he told Nine last week.

“I am going to talk to people pretty bluntly about what is coming and I don’t want them to wake up a year later and go ‘oh, oh I really didn’t think that was going to happen’.

“If you want to vote Labor, understand what it will mean.”

Labor today will offer its own warning of economic disaster.

Chris Bowen will claim the real danger was lower standards of living under a returned Coalition government and growing debt as households had to dip into savings.

He will point to rising expenses since the Coalition was elected in 2013: electricity prices up 15 per cent, the cost of long-day childcare up 24 per cent and private health insurance premiums up 30 per cent.

He will say household debt is at a disturbing level, reaching 120 per cent of GDP, “the second highest in the OECD, a record we should not be seeking and indeed should be concerned about”.

“Other countries have reduced household debt in the years following the GFC, we have been increasing it, leaving us more exposed in the event of an international downturn.”

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