01.Labor to oppose Budget cuts
Get set for a parliamentary showdown, because things are about to get interesting. In his much-anticipated Budget-in-reply speech, Labor leader Bill Shorten has effectively told the Coalition "we will, we will block you".
The government’s quest to introduce a $7 co-payment for those who visit a doctor or seek pathology or imaging services, the increased cost of medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, changes to higher education including deregulation of course fees, decreasing the government’s share of contributions to a student’s fees, and increasing interest rates on student loans, and funding cuts to hospitals and schools, announced in this Tuesday’s Budget, will all face staunch opposition from Labor.
Shorten used his speech to denounce the Abbott government’s first go at balancing the books as a “tax it or cut it Budget” that “will push up the cost of living for every Australian family”, attacking it for seeking to “demolish the pillars of Australian society - universal Medicare, education for all, a fair pension, full employment.”
During his speech, which was met with applause from the public gallery as well as his own party, Shorten pointed to modelling from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at Canberra University, claiming that a family on a single income of $65,000 and two children would see over $1700 cut from their family budget this year, and face cuts of over $6000 in 2016.
The speech focused on the broken promises made during the last federal election campaign, with the opposition leader saying it was “a Budget of broken promises built on lies”.
Shorten attacked the government’s justification for the introduction of a Medicare $7 co-payment, most of the proceeds of which would go into a medical research fund.
“The justification is that the Medicare system is too expensive and requires greater patient contribution. Yet the Budget reveals that not one dollar of the GP Tax will be returned to recurrent health spending. Yes, investing in medical research is crucial. All research is crucial. But you don’t fund the search for the cures of tomorrow by imposing a tax on the patients of today.”
The opposition will also block the government’s changes to Newstart, which will see young people lose their government payments for six months out of every year if they do not work or study, and changes to pension entitlements, particularly a change that would mean pension increases pegged to CPI rather than average wages.
And Shorten also took aim at the $80bn worth of cuts from health and education, which he argued were akin to blackmail. “The Prime Minister and the Treasurer are blackmailing the States with unconscionable cuts to turn them into the Commonwealth’s cat’s paw —a Trojan horse to a bigger GST but absolving the Abbott government of fingerprints or blame.”
While the speech acknowledged that long term budgetary changes were necessary, it denied that the country faced a debt emergency, and no alternative cuts were proposed. Shorten also kept mum on whether the opposition would block the two per cent debt levy to be applied to high income earners, and no mention was made of the government’s proposed infrastructure package.
For more of CHOICE's 2014 federal Budget coverage, check out our Budget wrap-up and see where you fall on the scales in our Budget winners and losers.