THE list of ways the Australian Labor Party is undercutting regional Australia become even longer last week, with the release of the Albanese government's second Federal Budget.
Australians across rural, regional and metropolitan areas are all doing it tough.
Labor's second budget was a chance to prove it could help Australians and responsibly steer the economic ship through complex currents.
Yet, instead of a course correction, we witnessed a high taxing, high spending government, which puts upward pressures on inflation and cost of living and forecasts higher taxes, higher energy bills and higher unemployment.
Since Anthony Albanese entered the Lodge, economic pressures have just continued to grow on families and business.
Inflation has reached its highest rate in decades.
Interest rates have spiked faster than any time in living memory.
Real wages (what you earn, factored against inflation) went down 4.5 per cent by the end of 2022 - the largest decrease on record.
Unemployment is expected to rise.
In fact, almost every major decision the government has made in response to these challenges has been the wrong one.
Labor has now been in government for a year.
At what stage does it take responsibility for its mistakes and stop blaming others for its mishandling of the economy?
A good government keeps its promises and nimbly responds to circumstances as they evolve.
Last week's budget confirms that Labor is failing the test of good government.
For a start, in an inflationary environment where the Reserve Bank is weighing further interest rate rises to combat rising prices, the government continues to increase spending, increasing the risk of rate rises.
Many senior economists have confirmed this budget is putting upward pressure on rates.
The government's unwillingness to restrain spending means Australians with mortgages will have less in their pockets every month and higher inflation means every dollar you have is worth less and less over time.
These same Australians received no support in this budget.
The only beneficiary to a high inflation environment is, in fact, the government, as the real value of government debt declines over time at the expense of taxpayers.
Meanwhile, Labor continues to grow government spending at unsustainable levels.
Regional Australians, who are even more impacted by inflation costs than those in the city, are also copping it through increased government imposts.
Farmers will be forced to pay a new biosecurity levy, even though biosecurity measures protect the health and safety of all Australians and most of the inspection costs are for imports.
Truckies will also be hit with a 5.2 cents per litre increase in the heavy vehicle road user charge.
The flow-on impacts of this will mean higher freight prices for every regional small business and agricultural producer.
The government has also thrown into chaos the $120 billion infrastructure pipeline inherited from the coalition.
It announced a 90-day 'review' of these key projects, many of them across the bush.
This is a not-too-subtle code for likely cuts or delays to projects in the near future.
Contained in this budget is also their promise-breaking changes to superannuation taxes - something they explicitly ruled out before the election.
Labor is doubling the superannuation tax from 15pc to 30pc for $3 million-plus super funds.
Three million may sound like a lot - but many farmers and small business owners put farmland or their premises into their funds, in good faith.
Now, with the tax applying to unrealised capital gains, they'll face out-of-pocket tax bills or will be forced to sell assets to cover the cost.
In another blow to farmers and small businesses, Labor has taken the instant asset write-off threshold down to levels not seen since 2018-19.
This compares to the full value write-off available under the previous coalition government.
The coalition will always support good ideas.
In his budget reply speech, Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton outlined a range of measures that we support, or support in-principle.
For example, we support the sustainable funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and a respectful, dignified and world-class aged care system.
We continue to support the bipartisan AUKUS defence agreement initiated by the coalition and continued under Labor.
We support increasing bulk-billing incentives.
While the changes to bulk billing incentives may offer some small relief in regional health, the severe doctor shortage may see much of that potential benefit disappear.
We welcome increased biosecurity funding, we just don't think domestic farmers should have to pay for the risk presented by imports - and so we support an importer container levy instead - as recommended by the independent Craik Review on biosecurity.
This government needs to seriously re-assess before it continues to make economic challenges worse.
Australia is a vast country.
Yet, Labor's focus seems fixated on a very narrow slice of Australia - namely, the urban centres of Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra.
This inner-city agenda is a disservice to the regions.
Labor happily collects the spoils of the very industries they decry, grasping tax revenue from the gas and resources sectors, yet fails to demonstrate any respect and support for these foundational economic pillars of our country.
Labor actively talks down the great WA resources sector in the east, whist using the tax windfall from resources to deliver their temporary surplus.
WA's regions drive the nation's wealth.
The regions are made up of farmers, miners, those who work on off-shore gas fields, small business owners, artisans, professionals, independent truckies, and self-employed tradies.
They are the backbone of our nation and are all striving for better opportunities for their kids than they had.
These are the aspirational Australians - Menzies' "forgotten people", Howard's "battlers".
But in this Labor budget, they are all having to battle even harder and have been forgotten again.
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