Measures to address cost of living concerns will be a key component of the upcoming federal budget, according to the prime minister.

With less than a week until the 2022/23 budget is handed down, Scott Morrison said work was being finalised on ways to address the soaring cost of essentials such as petrol and groceries.

“Addressing those cost of living pressures will be a key priority of that budget,” he told the Nine Network on Wednesday.

“We’ve been carefully designing our response because what we don’t do is have knee-jerk reactions on things like the economy.”

The government will be hoping to use the budget as a springboard ahead of the federal election due in May.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has thrown his support behind budget measures that tackle the rising cost of living.

However, he remained tight-lipped on whether Labor supported calls to temporarily cut the 44.2 cents per litre fuel excise, in the wake of rising petrol prices.

“We’ll assess all of it, we’ll wait and see,” he told ABC TV.

“There’s a range of measures that are putting pressure on family budgets, the biggest of which is that we just simply aren’t keeping up with the cost of living.”

The Labor leader hit out at the prime minister, saying the government did not have plans to actively address rising living costs.

“Housing costs are going up, the cost of food and groceries are going up, these are all having an impact on people’s capacity to pay their bills and to get by,” he said.

“The only thing that isn’t going up is wages, and wages are projected to fall in real terms again further over the next four years.”

It comes as the government announced on Wednesday $5.4 billion of funding would be in the budget to build the Hells Gates Dam in north Queensland.

The government will guarantee funding to build the dam, which is expected to create 7000 jobs, subject to completion of the final stage of the business case, expected in June this year.

Up to 60,000 hectares of irrigation would be opened up through a 2100 gigalitre dam bolstered by three downstream irrigation weirs.

Mr Morrison said more dams were needed in Australia to support agricultural industries

“We’ve done the homework on Hells Gates Dam and it’s now time to get on and build it,” he said.

“This dam will help turn the Burdekin region into an agricultural powerhouse, helping our farmers to stock supermarkets and feed Australia while also securing north Queensland’s water supply and security.”

With transport a key issue for regional areas, a further $29 million in the budget will go towards upgrading regional airports.

Applications will open for grants of between $20,000 and $5 million to help cover up to half of eligible project costs.

Also on Wednesday, the government announced $700 million has been set aside to support specialist medical training in regional areas.

The government’s specialist training program will be continued for four years from 2022, with $708.6 million being spent on its expansion.

The program, which has been running since 2010, allows for local doctors to be trained across medical specialty areas.


Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)