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"Hard decisions" mean Labor can offer tax cuts, says Shorten

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Bill Shorten says his hard decisions on negative gearing and capital gains tax mean he can offer voters almost double the coalition’s tax cuts at the next election.

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The Labor leader used his budget reply speech on Thursday night to announce support for the government’s planned $530 offset for low- and middle-income earners – and then go further.

“In our first budget, we will deliver a bigger, better and fairer tax cut for 10 million working Australians. Almost double,” Shorten told parliament.

The $5.8 billion plan will give $350 a year refunds to people earning $25,000, rising to $928 a year for people earning up to $90,000.

Above that, the refund tapers down to $140 for people earning $120,000 a year.

But the Coalition says Labor is planning to hike taxes across the board and still can’t pay for all the spending the party has announced.

“He’s spending the same money several times over, he’s spending money he already spent in the lead up to the last election, on things that he recommitted to again today,” Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told reporters.

“These are $200 billion in higher taxes which will hurt the economy, which will hurt families, and which will cost jobs.”

Labor is also promising to scrap up-front fees for 100,000 TAFE students in high-priority industries to get more Australian apprentices into work, and uncap university places.

“I don’t want Australia to meet these needs with skills visas. I want to train our people for these jobs,” Shorten said.

He’s banking on Labor’s changes to negative gearing, dividend imputation and capital gains tax to pay for the promises, as well as the decision not to match the government’s corporate tax cuts.

“We’ve made hard decisions on economic reform,” Shorten told the ABC’s 7:30 Report.

Shorten challenged the Coalition to campaign on company tax cuts in the upcoming five by-elections sparked due to the citizenship crisis.

He also promised to return the budget to surplus in 2019/20, the same year as the coalition.

But Shorten did not commit to lifting Newstart payments, which even former prime minister John Howard this week said should be raised.

“We need to review the payment system to work out what is adequate,” he said.

– AAP

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