Albanese refuses to be pulled over fuel prices, Morrison offers government tax cuts as leaders battle rising cost of living

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Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese traded blows over the cost of living, with both leaders preparing to battle rising prices ahead of the upcoming election.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has beefed up his government’s tax cut scheme to ease pressure from rising living costs, while Anthony Albanese has refused to be dragged down by rapidly rising oil prices gasoline.

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last month showed the annual cost of living increase for working households was 2.6%.

ABS price statistics manager Michelle Marquandt said rising fuel prices of more than 30% in 12 months was the “biggest contributor” to the rise in prices.

Mr Morrison was again asked if his government would reduce the fuel excise tax – currently set at 44 cents a litre, but he remained tight-lipped on the proposal.

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It came just a day after Liberal Prime Minister Steven Marshall urged the Commonwealth to cut excise duty.

Mr Morrison stressed that the conflict in Ukraine was creating significant pressure for Australians on the bowser.

“It was caused by the disruption of the war in Europe and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Mr Morrison said while touring the Central Coast on Monday.

“Australians understand that, and we understand that.”

Average unleaded gasoline prices have climbed to around $2.20 a liter, although fuel is only one concern in terms of rising household costs.

Mr Morrison said he understood the seriousness of rising prices and touted the government’s tax scheme to help ease the burden.

“There are a lot of pressures on the cost of living and that’s why our tax cuts are so important,” he said.

“Our commitment to lower taxes actually helps Australians cope better with the increases in the cost of living that you see, for example, on rising petrol prices.”

It comes as Sky News Australia’s political editor Andrew Clennell revealed the government will cut excise duty on draft beer before the budget is presented in a fortnight.

At least 20 coalition MPs – many of them in marginal seats – have written to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg backing a push from the hotel and club lobby for a 50% reduction in excise duty on draft beer.

A cup this size, if delivered, would save people 35 cents on every beer schooner and cost the budget $150 million a year.

Mr Clennell also said no decision had been taken on fuel excise and pointed to stage three tax cuts and an extension of tax compensation for low to middle incomes as measures budget aimed at reducing the cost of living.

The Leader of the Opposition, however, refused to offer an alternative stance on the fuel excise and slammed the government for the price hike.

Mr Albanese said petrol hovered around $2 a liter before the invasion of Ukraine, adding the price had been ‘high for a considerable period of time’.

‘We have petrol which is very high and people are really struggling and regional communities,’ he told reporters during a campaign stop in North Queensland.

“We have food, whether it’s meat, whether it’s vegetables, the essentials of life, are also increasing.

“We know that rents are also going up. We know that the cost of child care is also going up.

“What we have had from this government are ridiculous proposals to meet the cost of living.”

Mr Albanese said the Coalition “didn’t do anything about oil”, but said the opposition would “wait to see” government policy before announcing an alternative.

“What we do know is that this government is making low wages a deliberate feature of its economic policy,” he continued.

“So everything is going up except people’s salaries, which is why people are really, really struggling.”

It comes after the latest Newspoll showed Mr Albanese had moved closer to Mr Morrison as preferred Prime Minister for the first time since February 2020, with the two leaders attracting 42 per cent support from those polled.

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