Prime Minster Tony Abbott – desperately spruiking his government’s new budget – lobbied the Greek Australian community during his visit to the Brisbane Paniyiri last weekend.
Munching on loukoumades, Mr Abbott took the opportunity to meet voters and improve his image with the Greek community of Queensland.
It’s the second major event Mr Abbott has attended in the Greek community this year, after he celebrated Greek Easter at Sydney’s Greek Orthodox Church in Kogarah.
On Sunday, the PM was seen mingling with tens of thousands of festivalgoers, touring the stalls with festival organiser Chris Kazonis.
In his speech Mr Abbott spoke of the Greek legacy in Australia, and said Australians owed a debt to the Greek people.
“There is a sense in which every single Australian has a Greek heritage because Greece gave democracy to the world,” he said.
“So Australia, and every democratic country, owes a permanent debt to the Greek people, the Greek spirit, the Greek ethos.”
Sipping on a Mythos, and trying the delicacies on offer from the large number of stalls, Mr Abbott lapped up the attention showered on him.
“He was only there for an hour but he was amazingly well received,” Mr Kazonis told Neos Kosmos.
“There were no hecklers, no protesters and not one word of politics at the festival.”
Mr Kazonis admits that while there was no talk of politics, he could see how the PM would use this appearance as a PR exercise.
The prime minister has been spruiking the budget’s positive aspects to the public, hoping to entice many Greek Australian small business owners.
While in Brisbane, Mr Abbott visited a café to urge Labor to give bi-partisan support for the $20,000 instant asset write-off concession in the budget.
Businesses will be able to claim tax back on any item they purchase under $20,000, possibly saving a business about $5,000.
The budget’s bills are set to be debated in the Senate over the next fortnight, and will face some backlash.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said negotiations won’t be as tough as those experienced last year.
“It’s a bar that’s already near the ground, so I don’t think it can go any worse.”
One bill that is bound to see some opposition will be changes to the age pension bracket. The new pension assets test – set to come into effect in 2016 – will see anyone with assets above $823,000 receive a pension cut, hitting middle-income earners the hardest.
New research by Industry Super Australia says the new asset threshold will impact one in every three new retirees if it’s introduced in 2016 and will increase to seven in every 10 by 2055.
Off the agenda for this government have been changes to the superannuation tax system that see wealthy retirees receive tax breaks for any cash they place in their super fund.
Treasurer Joe Hockey reiterated the government’s position on the matter on ABC’s Q&A program this week, saying it would be unfair for people who lawfully added to their super to see that money taxed more heavily.
“People were able to contribute to their superannuation as much as they wanted in certain cases and they did,” he said.
“Now, they’ve lawfully put that money into their superannuation. If we were to impose a new tax now it would be a retrospective tax. It would be going and saying ‘well, sorry, you didn’t do it lawfully, we are going to tax all that money you put aside’.”
Many expect Labor to take the issue to the election, as public opinion gains momentum.
While the government has lauded this year’s budget as “fair and more measured”, new findings this week say low-income earners will bear most of the cost of the new budget.
The poorest 20 per cent of households will lose seven per cent of their disposable income by 2019, while those in the top 20 per cent will see a slight 0.2 per cent increase, according to the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM).
Mr Abbott has hit back at the findings. “The NATSEM analysis fails to take into account any of the benefits involved in moving from welfare to work,” he said during question time in parliament on Wednesday. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has labelled this budget as “sneaky” and says it repackages last year’s budget with better PR.
“There is no doubt that these secret cuts will once again be felt by the most vulnerable in our community,” a Labor media release said.
Mr Abbott wants to see more done to cut those rorting the welfare system.
The government plans to investigate 20,000 couples it says are in contrived relationships and have been granted visas, only to then go on and claim separate welfare payments.
The fraud cost taxpayers more than $100 million last year.