It’s not an especially encouraging sign when the day after the Budget the Prime Minister is forced to roll out his biggest cannon:
AN election fight looms over the federal budget as Tony Abbott demands the Senate pass his economic agenda, despite a furious response to sweeping welfare reforms and school funding cuts.
Laying out a political strategy towards the next election, the Prime Minister said he would not accept attempts to “completely frustrate” the government.
Parliament will start to debate key budget bills within days as the Coalition prepares to force votes as quickly as possible, so that changes such as the new deficit tax can take effect on July 1.
While open to “horse-trading” on details, Mr Abbott indicated he would insist on the passage of the overall legislation.
“What we won’t accept, though, is an attempt to completely frustrate the business of government. I don’t believe that they will try to completely frustrate the business of government because, if there was an election again, hardly any of them would win their seats.”
Here’s the wrap-up in the Senate:
- On the debt levy, Labor might offer support but might also elect to make it a “broken promise” by resisting, the Greens and LDP have said no but it still has a chance with PUP (but how likely is that?);
- the petrol excise has Greens support and will pass;
- the Medicare co-payment and the later retirement age are in trouble with Labor and PUP saying no and the Greens unlikely to;
- university deregulation and hospital funding cuts could still make it with only the Greens objecting to date and,
- family benefit cuts are still open slather.
But that’s only the beginning. The state premiers are coming together in an alliance to push back on everything:
Mr Abbott has also fallen foul of the premiers after the shock announcement in the budget that the Coalition would strip $80 billion from schools and hospital funding on the basis that the states run schools and hospitals and they should therefore take full funding responsibility. The move is designed to force the states to unite and agree to increase the rate or spread of the GST, from which they receive all the revenue.
…Queensland Liberal Premier Campbell Newman accused Mr Abbott of trying to force the states to lift the GST and demanded an urgent Council of Australian Governments meeting, which Mr Abbott refused.
NSW Premier Mike Baird accused the prime minister of a treachery which could damage the state’s credit rating.
…“What we’ve had last night from the federal government was a flick pass, it’s cost shifting and it says to this state, ‘we have a problem, you work it out,’ ” he said. He said the federal government should get its own house in order. There were similar outbursts from Victoria’s Denis Napthine, South Australia’s Jay Weatherill, Western Australia’s Colin Barnett and Adam Giles from the Northern Territory.
Business is in revolt over skills cuts:
Ten skills programs will be axed to save $1 billion. But the government is introducing an industry skills fund worth $476 million over four years to provide 121,500 training places in areas such as health, mining, manufacturing and defence. Businesses will be required to make co-contributions towards the cost of training on a sliding scale based on the size of the enterprise.
The Australian Industry Group lamented the loss of the long-standing Workplace English Language and Literacy program, which will be discontinued. “Never before has it been so important to develop entry-level skills, especially important trade and technical skills, but we also need to upskill our existing workforce,” AiGroup chief executive Innes Willox said. “Skills are a much-needed productivity enabler.”
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the budget would impose relatively harsh measures on young job seekers without commensurate investment in training.
“The changes to Newstart [Allowance] look pretty tough,” she said. “When you look at that against the unemployment figure going up, can this be done? [For] a lot of unemployed young people, their literacy is poor, their numeracy is poor.”
So, who is happy? Medical research:
CORPORATE leaders sitting on boards of the nation’s top medical research institutes could not believe their good fortune.
Despite comprehensive leaking of the Abbott government’s first budget, the establishment of the Medical Research Future Fund — the world’s biggest medical research fund, to be capitalised at $20 billion after five years — was so unexpected that some of the institutes’ top administrators were winging their way to Washington on Tuesday night.
Why? To do what Washington does best. A fundraiser. Australia’s ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley, was hosting a dinner for some of the world’s big research funds, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
I hope there are a lot voting researchers because I can’t discern much of a political budget strategy beyond scorched earth…