Anthony Albanese has declared the federal budget an “overwhelming victory” for Labor, in a departure from Bill Shorten’s assessment.
However, Mr Albanese insists his view is consistent with that of Mr Shorten.
Mr Shorten has repeatedly dismissed media descriptions of the Turnbull government’s second budget as “Labor-lite”.
“Make no mistake, this is not a Labor budget,” Mr Shorten said in his budget reply speech last week.
Mr Albanese gave an alternative take in a speech to the Transport Workers Union in Fremantle on Thursday.
“Budget 2017 was an overwhelming victory for the Australian Labor Party and the broader labour movement,” Mr Albanese said.
“After years of negativity and culture wars, the coalition used the budget to offload much of its ideological baggage and embrace Labor values on some core issues – at least at a superficial level.”
The Labor frontbencher and former leadership challenger said the government had “finally accepted” Australians supported universal healthcare, needs-based school funding and the national disability insurance scheme was a “critical reform”.
However, while the coalition had “raised the ideological white flag”, their words had not been matched with money.
“For example, they say they embrace needs-based education funding but they are still cutting investment by $22 billion over the next decade,” he said.
“They say they support Medicare. But the budget locked in billions of dollars in cuts and maintained the freeze on the Medicare rebate in the short term.
“They say they understand the importance of infrastructure investment. Yet the budget cuts it by $1.6 billion in this financial year alone, with investment to fall off a cliff over the next four years.”
Mr Albanese told reporters in Perth later on Thursday what he had said was in line with Mr Shorten’s view, and the speech had been shown to the opposition leader’s office before it was delivered.
“I think what I said is perfectly consistent with what Mr Shorten said,” Mr Albanese said.
“They (the coalition) are trying to capture Labor ideas because they don’t have any of their own.”
Asked whether he backed Mr Shorten to lead the party to the next election, he said: “Absolutely. We are a team and I’m committed to doing the best I can on infrastructure, transport, regional development, cities and tourism.”