Anthony Albanese has taken aim at the ABC’s Michael Rowland in a head-to-head clash in which he accused the host of playing “word games”.
The Prime Minister made the comment after he was repeatedly asked why he refused to use the word “promise” when asked about his commitment to the contentious stage three tax cuts.
“Can you promise they will come in effect in July in full?” Rowland asked.
Mr Albanese insisted his government’s position on the cuts had not changed since the federal election.
“I know there’s ongoing debate about the impact of those tax cuts. But we support reducing tax,” he replied.
But the ABC host pressed back: “Can you promise as you did before the election, the stage three tax cuts will come in full in July?”
“Well, I have said we haven’t changed our position, Michael.”
Mr Rowland asked twice more if he would use the word promise.
“It’s not exactly a promise, PM? It was a promise before the election. Has that promise changed?”
A visibly frustrated Mr Albanese then cracked it at the host.
“You can play word games, Michael. Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed, the government has exactly the same position,” he said.
“We’re doing what we can to address cost of living pressures. Part of that will be given income tax relief. And that income tax relief will be important for people.”
To come into effect in July, the stage three tax cuts will abolish the 37 per cent bracket that applies to income between $120,000 and $180,000.
It will also apply a 30 per cent rate to all earnings between $45,000 and $200,000.
The biggest benefit of the cuts would flow to Australians who earn the most and pay the most tax.
The cuts were legislated by the previous Coalition government. At the time, Mr Albanese argued it in opposition but ultimately blinked and waved them through.
He later vowed to deliver the tax cuts while on the election campaign.
The May budget would be the final chance for the government to make changes to stage three before it comes into effect.
But any change would be seen as a breach of promise and would open Labor up to a fresh avenue of attack from the Coalition.
With just over a year until the next election is due, Mr Albanese and his frontbench have made the cost-of-living crisis its central focus.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers flagged on Wednesday he is prepared to consider what “more that we can do” for Aussies doing it tough ahead of the budget.
“I don’t really want to get into ruling things in or out, but what I can say is that we’ve shown ability to roll out this cost-of-living relief in a way that takes some of the edge off these inflationary pressures without adding to them,” he said.
“We have made some progress there. But we understand that people are still under pressure.
“And so of course, if there is more that we can do in the budget in a responsible and affordable way, we’ll consider that too.”