Opposition Leader Tony Abbott waves after he delivered his Budget reply speech in the House of Representatives. Photo: Penny Bradfield
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has accused the government of trying to portray Australia's political contest as one between billionaires and battlers. But he said any government should be at least as interested in the creation of wealth as it is in its distribution.
In his budget reply speech to Parliament last night, Mr Abbott accused Labor of a ''knee-jerk response'' to economic conditions and said Treasurer Wayne Swan's fifth budget had only delivered ''more tax, more regulation and more vitriol''.
''The fundamental problem with this budget is that it deliberately, coldly, calculatedly plays the class war card,'' he said.
''It cancels previous commitments to company tax cuts and replaces them with means-tested payments because a drowning government has decided to portray the political contest in this country as billionaires versus battlers.
''It's an ignoble piece of work from an unworthy Prime Minister that will offend the intelligence of the Australian people.''
As expected, Mr Abbott used his highly politicised 20-minute speech to repeatedly condemn the government's incoming carbon and mining taxes and also keep the spotlight on the scandal around suspended Labor MP Craig Thomson.
And he said no one should feel confident Mr Swan will deliver his forecast $1.5 billion surplus or create opportunities for people to succeed, because the budget had no plan for economic growth.
''The Coalition has a plan for economic growth. It starts with abolishing the carbon tax and abolishing the mining tax,'' the Opposition Leader said.
But Mr Abbott failed to provide substantial details of his alternative economic plan and he offered no costings to show how he would implement his ''better way''.
He did talk about a permanent cut to the size of the public sector and promised that no public service bonuses would be paid unless annual savings targets were met.
And he flagged a new education initiative to revive the teaching of foreign languages in schools.
The theme of Mr Abbott's speech, however, was to mock the ''Labor values'' of the budget, insisting that real Labor people were in despair and embarrassed by the failures of the government.
He even quoted former Labor prime minister Ben Chifley's famous ''light on the hill'' speech to suggest Prime Minister Julia Gillard had abandoned its principles.
''I regret to say that the deeper message of this week's budget is the Labor Party now only stands for staying in office,'' Mr Abbott said.
''Everyone knows that the Prime Minister is a clever politician, but who really trusts her to keep any commitments?'' Saying that Ms Gillard's integrity would be judged by the voters, Mr Abbott referred to her protection of Mr Thomson over allegations he used his former Health Services Union credit card to pay for prostitutes.
''His suspension from the caucus won't end the sleaze factor paralysing this government,'' he said. ''Decent Labor people shouldn't be bluffed by the deal with independents into keeping a leader who is trashing a once honourable political party.''