Labor will slash Coalition’s grant spending to help budget

“He does seem to be getting a bit ahead of himself and, you know, Australians will make this decision, Anthony. You don’t get to make it before the election,” Morrison said at a press conference.

But Labor MPs and advisers acknowledged they were in a close contest after the Resolve Political Monitor showed a swing against Labor and a slight gain for the Coalition over the past two weeks.

Albanese will target marginal seats with five senior colleagues including Chalmers, deputy Richard Marles, Senate leader Penny Wong, education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek and housing spokesman Jason Clare.

Labor said the target seats would be Reid, Bennelong, Robertson and Banks in NSW; Brisbane, Leichardt, Dickson, Longman and Ryan in Queensland; Boothby and Sturt in South Australia; Bass and Braddon in Tasmania; Chisholm, Higgins, Casey and Deakin in Victoria; and Swan, Pearce and Hasluck in Western Australia.

In a heated dispute over the election costings, Albanese attacked Morrison for a Coalition decision on Tuesday to save $3.3 billion by imposing an efficiency dividend across the federal public service.

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“Do you know what that leads to? Robodebt. It doesn’t save money. It costs money because you take
humans out of human services and it has devastating consequences for real people. It costs lives,” he said.

Albanese has promised a royal commission into the “robodebt” scheme, which sought to recoup money from welfare recipients using software to analyze their payments but was later declared unlawful, leading to a $1.8 billion federal payment to settle a class-action lawsuit.

The rival election costings are not expected to make a significant impact on the federal deficits and debt. The budget forecast deficits of $224.7 billion over the four years to June 2026. The Coalition costings promise an improvement of $977 million on this figure over the same four years.

The $67.7 million for community development grants in the March 29 budget included $8 million for civic upgrades in the NSW town of Scone (in Joyce’s electorate of New England), $5 million for a scout center in Gilwell Park in Victoria (in the marginal seat of La Trobe), $5 million for a police and community youth center in Caboolture in Queensland (in the marginal seat of Longman), $4.5 million for an upgrade to Bendigo Airport in Victoria (in the safe Labor seat of Bendigo) and $600,000 for the FoodShare service in Shepparton in Victoria (in the seat of Nicholls, which the Nationals are seeking to hold against a challenge from a prominent independent).

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The government unveiled its Regionalization Fund with a $500 million pledge on March 29 and said this was part of a wider $2 billion Regional Accelerator Program, although there have been few details on specific projects receiving money from this scheme.

The additional Labor savings will depend on work being done to determine the unallocated money in various programs, giving Chalmers and Gallagher a way to make savings without canceling grants already promised.

Albanese has promised a review by government officials to examine spending commitments, and potentially cut them, if Labor wins power.

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