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Budget 2004: comments on which seats will benefit most.

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Wednesday 12 May 2004

Budget 2004: comments on which seats will benefit most


MARK COLVIN: Is this really a budget aimed at putting the Government straight into election mo de? 


The Opposition has calculated on a seat-by-seat analysis that the biggest benefits will actually go to safe Liberal seats, not marginals. 


Meanwhile voters are trying to make up their minds what's in it for them. There are some key groups, including older Australians and rural and regional residents, saying not enough. 


And as Louise Yaxley reports, even Coalition MPs say those people will help decide the result in many marginal seats. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The scale of the budget spending sent thoughts straight to an August election date. The thinking was that the Government would quickly try to capitalise on the "feel good factor". But it's already emerged that there is also a significant "why were we ignored? factor". 


Michelle O'Byrne holds one of the nations most marginal seats for Labor. It's Bass in northern Tasmania. She says the Coalition's tax changes will do little for her constituents because incomes are lower. 


MICHELLE O'BYRNE: Ninety three-point-two per cent of income earners in Bass do not earn $52,000 a year, many of them substantially less. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: So they'll miss out? 


MICHELLE O'BYRNE: So they're not going to get any benefit from this tax cut for some families. I think that most people in Bass and certainly the rest of Tasmania are going to actually feel a bit ripped off by this budget.  


A lot of the people in our area don't fall into this very neat little definition of a hard working family that the Treasurer has identified. The majority of people earn less than $52,000. We have a high income of ... high level of people who are over the age of 65, so they're those pensioners that aren't getting anything, and a lot of people who live on their own, so they don't necessarily fall into the Government's definition of a family.  


So these people are looking at the $20 tax cut that they were promised and saying - well, where is it? What do I get out of this? 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The five Federal seats in Tasmania are all Labor held. The Prime Minister denied today they'd been left out or would get fewer benefits because of the lower average incomes in that State. 


JOHN HOWARD: Tasmanians, like all other Australians, have families. Australians who live in Tasmania pay taxes. Australians who live in Tasmania need aged care facilities. Australians who live in Tasmania are interested in defence and intelligence services and all of the benefits and changes that were announced last night to, by the Treasurer, are as much beneficial, equally beneficial to people living in Tasmania as they are to the rest of the country. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Tasmanians aren't the only ones who are arguing they could have had more out of this budget. 


Barry Haase is a Liberal from the marginal seat of Kalgoorlie and he's disappointed the Government hasn't given more tax breaks for residents of remote parts of the nation. 


BARRY HAASE: Tax zone rebates is enough to make you spit. The sixth budget now that I've been fighting tooth and nail to get a breakthrough. Once again it's been overlooked in the interest of across the board tax cuts for all Australians, rather than allowing something special for my patch, that is, for regional and remote Australia. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Ross Cameron is a Liberal with a marginal seat that couldn't be much different than Kalgoorlie. Mr Cameron represents Parramatta in Sydney and he says the budget hasn't been targeted at any groups in particular, arguing it can't be. 


ROSS CAMERON: This is where I would dispute the proposition that this is some kind of cynical budget ploy. This, every, the marginal seats across New South Wales could not be more different and even the differences, for example, between me with a - in Parramatta - with over 35 per cent of my constituents speaking a language other than English at home, and Pat Farmer just around, just down the street in Campbelltown, who would have over 90 per cent of his constituents speaking English, probably 95 per cent, it's a completely different seat. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Labor's Finance Spokesman, Bob McMullan, has looked to see if the benefits of this budget would be going to those in the marginal seats the Government wants to win and hold. He says the signs are the benefits won't be going to those groups. 


BOB MCMULLAN: The income tax changes are really rewarding the Liberal Party's friends. There are only eight seats in Australia with an average income above... average taxable income above $52,000. Only eight. They're all safe Liberal seats in New South Wales, Victoria, and one in Western Australia. All safe Liberal seats. That's where all the benefit is flowing.  


Well I think that they're hoping that the smoke and mirrors around the tax, around the family tax changes, will create the impression that the money is flowing much more broadly and that people, there will be an illusion created that more people are gaining. And the amount of money they've been able to pour out in these first six weeks as one-off payments will disguise the fact that the long term benefits of the income tax cuts is flowing overwhelmingly to the already privileged safe in Liberal Party seats. 


MARK COLVIN: Labor's Finance Spokesman Bob McMullan, talking to Louise Yaxley, and that ends our budget coverage for tonight.