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Julia Bergin

Scott Morrison’s deceased estate: just what has Labor inherited?

It’s been two months since Anthony Albanese came into office and he is still working his way through what was left by the previous inhabitant. At any given press conference, the PM is apt to say something like “My government has not made this decision; this is a decision that was inherited,” but it’s starting to wear thin — even if true.

To help with Labor’s spring cleaning, Crikey has put together an inventory of the policies in Scott Morrison’s “deceased estate”, as told by the PM and his team:

$1 trillion in debt

The balance sheet is being leveraged left, right and centre in the hope that the numbers will do much of the talking. Albanese’s debt doorman, Treasurer Jim Chalmers, has been keen to remind voters that inheritance to the tune of $1 trillion has really hamstrung the government: “There’s no point mincing words about the sorts of conditions that we have inherited. We’ve inherited high and rising inflation and rising interest rates. We’ve inherited falling real wages. And we’ve inherited a trillion dollars in debt with nowhere near enough to show for it.”

Termination of free RATS

On July 31 concession card holders will lose access to their 10 free rapid antigen tests.

Termination of pandemic leave payments

After pushing hard on the line that “emergency payment was designed by the former government”, following a snap national cabinet meeting on Saturday morning the government threw out its inheritance and reinstated COVID-19 compensation for casual workers forced to isolate at home on public health advice. It had ended on June 30. Albanese was keen to labour the point: “And so we will reverse the decision we inherited from the former government to cease this payment.”

Termination of Medicare-funded COVID telehealth

On June 30 patient access to more than 70 GP and non-GP specialist telehealth services were cut in line with a decision by the Morrison government. National cabinet announced a temporary telehealth item for Medicare-backed consultations with GPs to access COVID-19 antivirals. The cover will remain in place until the end of October. Dozens of telehealth items remain unavailable.

Fuel excise tax

The fuel excise tax will be reintroduced in full in September. The former government halved it for a set six months to take the burden of soaring petrol prices off consumers. In an interview with ABC radio, Chalmers said that although Labor would like to extend the cuts, the government’s hands were tied: “We can’t do everything we would like to do when you’ve got a budget which is heaving with a trillion dollars in debt.”

Stage 3 tax cuts stay

There’ll be no change to Morrison’s stage 3 tax cuts set to come in effect in 2024-25. As opposition leader, Albanese lobbied hard against the plan to level tax brackets for low- and high-income earners, but based on a “election promise” the Morrison agenda is here to stay.

JobActive obligations

There’ll be no freeze on mutual obligations for jobseekers under the existing JobActive income support program.

Visas for Ukrainians

The temporary humanitarian visas program for Ukrainians, originally set to expire on June 30, was extended to July 14, and then again to July 31 after a significant backlash over lack of communication of a pre-existing deadline. Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said in a statement: “The initial 30 June expiry date, as set by the previous government, had not been communicated to the Ukrainian Australian community.”

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