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'I'll tell you what's unfair Joe Hockey'

In a speech to ACOSS, Opposition leader Bill Shorten slams the Treasurer over 'unfairness' in the budget. Nine News.

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Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has accused Treasurer Joe Hockey of having a ''Mitt Romney moment'' after the Treasurer said half of all households received welfare from the government and that we ought to be rewarding ''lifters'' and not ''leaners''.

Welfare sector leaders have also reacted angrily to suggestions by Mr Hockey that critics of his budget are engaging in ''class warfare''.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney: multi-millionaire presidential candidate who ran against Barack Obama. Photo: Reuters

Mr Hockey delivered a speech in defence of his budget on Wednesday night, telling the right-leaning Sydney Institute that views that his first budget would exacerbate inequality were ''largely misguided.''

He said Australia's welfare system was unsustainable, with the government expecting to spend 35 per cent of the federal budget on welfare next financial year, and with the average taxpayer being asked to spend more than $12,000 to fund the system.

''At the moment over half of Australian households receive a taxpayer-funded payment from the government,'' Mr Hockey said.

Treasuer Joe Hockey

'Out of touch': Joe Hockey. Photo: Andrew Meares

''The average working Australian, be they cleaner, a plumber or a teacher, is working over one month full-time each year just to pay for the welfare of another Australian.

''Is this fair?''

Mr Shorten criticised the Treasurer's framing of the question on Thursday, saying the comments showed he was ''out of touch''.

''Joe Hockey had a Mitt Romney moment in Australian politics where he says that half of the Australians who are receiving payments from the government, support from the government, he very clearly accused them of being the leaners, not the lifters,'' Mr Shorten said.

Mitt Romney was the multi-millionaire US presidential candidate who, when running against president Barack Obama in 2012, was secretly taped telling a roomful of wealthy donors that half of the American population was dependent on government and believed they were ''entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.''

The head of the Council of Social Service, Cassandra Goldie, said she ''absolutely rejects'' the Treasurer's suggestion that people talking about fairness, with regards to the budget, were engaging in class warfare.

''[The budget] targets people on low incomes and delivers only a light touch to those with significant wealth. It's in everybody's interest for us not to increase the class divide,'' she said.

Vice-president of the Doctors Reform Society Dr Tracy Schrader said: ''If it is a class war, Hockey fired the first shot. The cuts to public hospitals and the introduction of co-payments will eventually lead to a two-tier system.''

Economist Chris Richardson from Deloitte Access Economics said although the budget would see the burden of its cuts fall on the less well-off, the longer-term budget strategy was more important.

Clarification: An earlier version of this article said Mitt Romney was a billionaire.

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