Australia Federal budget under fire on Q+A as Jim Chalmers talks slush funds and Jacqui Lambie takes aim over national debt

19:05  13 may  2021
19:05  13 may  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a close up of Jacqui Lambie: Jacqui Lambie was one of many Q+A panellists to criticise the 2021 Budget and rising national debt. () © Provided by ABC NEWS Jacqui Lambie was one of many Q+A panellists to criticise the 2021 Budget and rising national debt. ()

The level of national debt impacting the younger generation, so-called slush funds and suggested benefits for women in the federal budget all came under fire on Q+A.

On Thursday night, Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Digital Economy Jane Hume was left to fend off criticisms of the government, which came especially vigorously from Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie and Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers.

Mr Chalmers and Senator Lambie were both blunt in their assessments of the budget and neither believed that accumulating what could soon be trillions of dollars worth of debt for the younger generation to pay off was fair.

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If in four years' time, the deficit remains at $57 billion, then by that stage, gross debt will have blown out to a staggering $1.2 trillion.

Senator Lambie used her final statement of the show to sarcastically take aim at what she believed was the federal government's message to young Australians.

"I don't want you kids to worry about paying your trillion dollars," Senator Lambie said.

"While you're doing that, you can pay the university off as well. And then if you put yourself into a housing debt, you better pray to God those interest rates don't go up too much in the next 5 to 10 years.

"You've got it made."

It may have been the final comment of the heated episode in Canberra, but it was not the only one that focused on the nation's debt or the generation that has to pay it off.

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With youth unemployment currently at over "16 per cent", Ms Hume was asked if the deficit would fall to the younger generation to pay off, but she instead spruiked government spending.

"This budget is all about our next phase of our economic recovery, making sure we grow the economy," she said.

Mr Chalmers was far more concerned about the trillion dollars of national debt and said that for all the spending, the Morrison government does not have enough to show for it.

"I think it matters we have $1 trillion of debt," Mr Chalmers said.

"My concern about the budget was there's not enough to show for $1 trillion in debt, not just for $100 billion in new spending in one night.

"I think our obligation to the young people in this audience, but to all Australians, right around the country, is to spend that money wisely.

"Recognise if we're going to borrow all that money it needs to build something that lasts for you. We're right to see this budget, and this moment, in generational terms.

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"There will be debt in the budget for generations."

One member of that generation, Canberra high school student Sophie Thorp, expressed her concern young Australians would be lumbered with paying back the national debt and was met with a tough response from Senator Lambie.

"You'll be paying off a debt, sweetheart," she said.

"And what else bothers me, the university fees are going up. They [the government] haven't chunked any more in towards that."

'Slush funds' and sports rorts

Victorian independent Helen Haines also criticised the budget and took aim at the areas of the environment, future $1 trillion debt levels and no focus on the proposed integrity commission.

"This $1 trillion debt is not buying us solutions to climate change," the Member for Indi said.

"There were opportunities in this budget to make a game-changing choice about how we lower emissions in this country.

"I'm also concerned that while billions of dollars was going out the door, there was zero dollars for the integrity commission that was promised to us by this government at the last election.

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"With zero dollars for an integrity commission and $9 billion in a fund that can be used for the next election, for projects that have been approved by Cabinet, but not yet announced.

"That's $9 billion that we don't know that will be spent on."

Ms Hume objected to the comments and said money had been put aside for the integrity commission but the $9 billion dollars in spare cash was not part of Coalition "slush funds" as she said Labor had called them.

"I saw a list of these so-called slush funds that Labor put out today," Ms Hume said.

"One of them fell under my portfolio, which is the digital economy strategy. That's a $1.2 billion strategy to take the economy to the next level and make that great productivity leap.

"That's an opportunity for businesses to grow and invest and employ and bring digitisation and productivity into their businesses. It's an opportunity to upskill existing industries like mining and construction and agriculture.

"This is not a slush fund."

Ms Hume added the money was doled out after "competitive grant processes", but Mr Chalmers said Australians were right to question the presently unallocated money because of what had happened in the past.

"One of the reasons why Australians are sceptical about the 21 slush funds is they saw what happened with sports rorts... and they know the government has spent as much money on advertising themselves as preventing domestic and family violence," he said, before continuing to accuse the government of financial improprieties.

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"For the last eight years the government creates these buckets of money and they accumulate them to use to get through an election."

Was it truly a women's budget?

Tuesday's budget was touted as one for the women of Australia but the government could not escape criticisms on that front either, with audience member Taylah Abraham asking "does the promotion of childcare as a women's benefit reflect the sexist ideology of this current government?".

Greens senator Larissa Waters took aim at Prime Minister Scott Morrison over that question.

"This government is stuck in the 1950s," Senator Waters said.

"They just delivered a budget they tried to sell us as a women's budget, but it's less than 4 per cent of new money that's for women, and half of that is childcare.

"They seem to think that's only our issue. The 1950s called and they want their prime minister back."

Ms Hume defended Mr Morrison and the Coalition.

"Let me just take off my apron before I answer that question," Ms Hume said.

"The women's budget statement is not just a women's issue, and certainly childcare is not just a women's issue, but we do know that childcare subsidies that aren't calibrated correctly disproportionately affect women.

"When we recalibrated childcare and added $1.7 billion to our package, it was specifically targeted at families that had second or subsequent children as they're the ones that carry the burden of the cost of child care disproportionately."

She said the government's new measures would allow more women to re-enter the workforce for more hours.

"If we can increase female workforce participation by 5 per cent , it can actually add $20 billion worth of value to GDP," she said.

"This is an economic package. A women's economic package."

Mr Chalmers accused the government of doing what he termed a "patch-up job", having abolished the women's budget statement in 2014 when Tony Abbott was minister for women.

He went on to say Labor would release a women's budget statement yearly if they were in government and establish a housing future fund to allocate "4,000 homes from that fund to women who are fleeing domestic and family violence".

Senator Lambie agreed the government was in damage control on women's issues.

"It's been a horrific year when comes to Liberal Party and women," she said.

"They lost a lot of votes, so they're buying your vote … [and] I think they're doing it on the cheap, for all the women, we've been used on the cheap for long enough."

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