Treasurer Joe Hockey says criticism of his budget is along 1970s-style class warfare lines and that the measures are based on people’s capacity to pay.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has rejected criticism his budget is unfair, saying the government must “reward the lifters and discourage the leaners”.

But his message will be challenged by Labor when Opposition Leader leader Bill Shorten renews his attack on the coalition government’s “unfair cuts” at a welfare conference on Thursday.

Too many Australians rely on government payments, Mr Hockey told the Sydney Institute on Wednesday night.

The government will this year spend $6000 on welfare, on average, for every person in the nation.

“Give that only around 45 per cent of the population pays income tax, the average taxpayer must pay more than twice this amount in tax to fund welfare expenditure,” he said.

“The average working Australian …. is working over one month full time each year just to pay for the welfare of another Australia.”

Mr Hockey questioned whether this was fair.

“It should not be taboo to question whether everyone is entitled to these payments,” he said.

Some two per cent of taxpayers paid more than a quarter of all income tax.

“Maybe these taxpayers would argue that the tax system is already unfair,” Mr Hockey said.

Several of the government’s budget measures, including a $7 GP visit co-payment, changes to jobless benefits, a higher pension age and deregulation of university fees have been criticised as unfair.

But Mr Hockey said the criticism has “drifted to the 1970s class warfare lines” and his budget was about equal opportunity, not equality of outcome.

“Our duty is to help Australians to get to the starting line, while accepting that some will run faster than others,” he said.

“We must reward the lifters and discourage the leaners.”

Mr Shorten will tell an Australian Council of Social Services conference in Brisbane on Thursday the coalition’s budget puts big business ahead of individuals.

He will accuse the government of allowing multi-national firms to evade tax in Australia.

“This lax approach to tax evasion is especially galling at a time when the government is making cruel and unfair cuts to our pensioners, our schools and our hospitals,” he will say.

Mr Hockey conceded economic measures like consumer confidence had taken a hit following the budget.

“That is entirely predictable,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.

The budget’s focus is implementing structural change to the economy to create jobs, he said.

“You will see over time that we will deliver on a stronger economy,” he said.

“Baring any exceptional circumstances, things are going to get better.”

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said Mr Hockey had a “massive credibility problem”.

“It was a pretty pathetic attempt to defend a pathetic budget,” he told ABC radio.

Mr Hockey is introducing a “massive social welfare scheme” through the paid parental leave program contradicting his rhetoric about reducing government handouts, Mr Bowen said.