Prime Minister Scott Morrison has again stoked fears about the economy slipping into recession under a Labor government.
Mr Morrison delivered the warning to an AFR business summit on Tuesday, following a speech declaring the economic policy differences between the major parties were the most pronounced in more than four decades.
“I’m saying the economy will be weaker under Labor — that’s exactly what I’m saying,” he told attendees in Sydney.
“They’re going to put $200 billion worth of taxes and take Australia’s industrial relations system back to the times when we had recessions in this country.”
Asked directly whether he believed Australia could plunge into recession under Labor, Mr Morrison said “history would show”.
“I’m trying to ensure that we never know the answer to that question,” he said.
Pressed on whether he was being alarmist by raising the prospect of a recession, the prime minister said: “I think it’s the truth.”
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said Mr Morrison was being “highly irresponsible”.
“It’s everything we’ve come to expect from a desperate prime minister with no economic policy of his own.”
The prime minister also quashed any hope of delivering tax cuts for big businesses, which the government abandoned late last year.
“I can’t see the opportunity for that in the near term or at any point at this stage,” Mr Morrison said.
“We took that to the Australian people at the last election, we were returned, and the Labor Party and the Senate voted against it and so that is not something I’m taking to the next election.”
During his speech, the Prime Minister lamented Labor’s plans to ditch some of the coalition’s planned tax cuts, and argued Opposition Leader Bill Shorten would unwind the nation’s industrial relations system.
“The contrast at this election between the economic plans of the coalition and Labor is greater than it has been for 40 years,” he said.
“A Shorten Labor government would not be a slightly more progressive version of the coalition government. It would be an economic leap in the dark.”
His comments come as Labor finance spokesman Jim Chalmers makes a speech of his own, calling on the government to angle its upcoming federal budget towards supporting ordinary Australians.
Mr Chalmers wants a renewed focus on low wages growth, job insecurity and cost of living pressures.
“Any budget handed down in less than four weeks’ time that doesn’t deal with the anxiety that permeates our suburbs isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” Mr Chalmers will tell the Committee for Melbourne.
He will also stress the need for the government to curb climbing debt in the April 2 budget and ensure forecasts are realistic.