This is so beautiful, so graceful, so clever, so simple.
WEALTHIER families spend more on petrol and therefore pay more fuel tax according to official figures released last night to fend off attacks on Joe Hockey over the hit to households from the federal budget.
The Treasurer’s office issued the figures to counter a firestorm of criticism over Mr Hockey’s claim yesterday that the most vulnerable Australians would not pay as much as others from steady increases in petrol excise.
Labor argued that the figures nonetheless showed that poorer families pay more in fuel tax as a share of their household income, proving they carry more of the budget burden.
The dispute flared after Mr Hockey argued against Labor and the Greens who said rich and middle-income families should pay more to balance the budget.
“Well, change to the fuel excise does exactly that: the poorest people either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far in many cases,” he said.
“But, they are opposing what is meant to be, according to the Treasury, a progressive tax.”
That drew jeers from Labor frontbenchers such as Anthony Albanese, who attacked the budget for not funding public transport projects.
“So Joe Hockey cuts all public transport funding from (the) budget, then says poor people don’t drive cars much — you couldn’t make this stuff up,” Mr Albanese tweeted.
The Treasurer’s office later issued figures showing households in the lowest 20 per cent in the country by income spend $16.36 a week on petrol while those in the top 20 per cent spend $53.87 — and therefore pay more excise.
Labor and the Greens have attacked the plan to increase fuel excise by about 1c a litre this year and similar amounts in the future, although economists support the idea, which is estimated to add about 40c a week to average household costs.
Labor treasury spokesman Chris Bowen issued figures showing that the petrol bill for a family in the lowest quintile would be 4.5 per cent of income compared to just 1.4 per cent for those in the richest 20 per cent.
Mr Bowen’s spokesman said that meant the fuel excise was regressive rather than progressive as the Treasurer claimed.
Even so, the 40c weekly cost from the excise increase — rather than petrol as a whole — is a fraction of a percentage point for all families.
Bill Shorten said Mr Hockey did not realise how “rotten” the budget was.
“Are you serious, Joe Hockey? Are you really the caricature of the cigar-chomping, Foghorn Leghorn of Australian politics, where you’re saying that poor people don’t drive cars?” the Labor leader said.
“It is almost though the Treasurer believes that poor people should be sleeping in their cars, not driving their cars.”