Economic, Commerse & Financial industry :: World finance

Shorten challenges turnbull to accept 8billion in budget cuts

IN THE game of Budget poker leading up to Parliament’s return next week, Bill Shorten is today seeing Malcolm Turnbull’s bid and raising him $1.5 billion.

The Opposition Leader is using a speech at the National Press Club to challenge the Prime Minister to accept $8 billion in spending reductions to help fix the Budget deficit.

It is his response to Mr Turnbulls demand that Labor support omnibus legislation, not yet seen, which the government said contained $6.5 billion in cuts backed by Labor during the election campaign.

Lets be frank. Our Budget and our economy need something a lot more serious and a lot more substantial than Mr Turnbulls stunt, Mr Shorten will say today.

What Im proposing today is a genuine solution.

But when it comes to savings, the Opposition is refusing to budge from Labors election demands that the Medicare rebate for GP visits be unfrozen to save families from significant charges by doctors.

He even argues the election outcome effectively directed Mr Turnbull to resume indexation of the rebate, which Coalition policy would freeze for a total of six years.

The Prime Minister is eager to claim a mandate from the election result, but he refuses to heed its warning, says Mr Shorten.

Saving Medicare was the biggest issue of the election campaign. And protecting Medicare must be a priority for the 45th Parliament.

The $8 billion over four years in Labors proposed spending cuts will be familiar to the government, which has rejected many of them.

They include reforms to negative gearing and capital gains taxes, changes to vocational training to eliminate rorts, an increase in tobacco excise, removal of the $1.2 billion baby bonus, and exclusion of experimental therapies from private health insurance coverage.

Have the courage to lead your party, Mr Shorten will say in his speech.

Be big enough to stand up and say, These are good policies, that will help the Budget lets put the campaign aside and adopt them.

Recognise that this is fair-dinkum fiscal repair that is both urgent and achievable in the 45th Parliament.

Economic policy is far from settled since the election and the new Parliament will have to consider the bulk of the May 3 Budget.

The government has for the past week been accusing Labor of walking away from spending measures it championed in the campaign, and which Mr Turnbull says are in the $6.5 billion package.

However, the government itself is considering a retreat on its own election policy with Treasurer Scott Morrison holding closed-door meetings with backbench MPs on changes to superannuation taxes.

There is nothing unusual in that, Revenue Minister Kelly ODwyer told Radio National last night.

There is nothing unusual in consulting with colleagues and stakeholders in putting together the legislation that forms a particular package.

Both Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten have spoken of co-operation on spending cuts, but have yet to engage in it.

Mr Shortens speech today says: Both major parties want a stronger bottom line for the country, the current disagreement is over how we get there.

Last week Mr Turnbull spoke of reaching across the aisle. And yet all he did was demand Labors support, sight unseen, for his legislation.

Weve said we will look constructively at Mr Turnbulls omnibus Bill when the government finally chooses to make the legislation available.

Weve said our position will reflect the position we took to the election.

The screenshots that show why centrelink is broken

pstrongTHESE screenshots of unanswered calls show exactly why Centrelink is in so much trouble./strong/ppJeremy Di Sessa called the families number listed on the agencys website a staggering 86 times over three days, and not once did anyone pick up./ppThe 33-year-old dad from Adelaide received a letter telling him his family tax benefits would be cut if he did not update his details within two weeks. But his repeated efforts to speak to a human between January 5 and 8 all failed./ppHe wasnt put on hold, or offered a callback service. The line is supposed to be open Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm. When he visited a branch, he was told to use the phone or website, the latter of which he has been unable to do./ppThis is how good Centrelink is, Jeremy told Every time I have called the line is busy. They are going cut my family benefit in half if I dont update my details by 14 days of receiving our letter. How are we meant to do this when their phone lines are jammed?/ppThe complaint is not new. Nearly 29 million calls to Centrelink got a busy signal in the year to October, Senate Estimates heard, with another 7 million calls abandoned by customers unwilling to wait any longer./ppConcerns over Centrelinks efficiency, accuracy and quality of technology are growing, with customers facing huge queues at branches, confusion from staff who cant fix the computer issues and being passed from person to person./ppThe Governments chief former digital officer Paul Shetler, who resigned in November after being hired to transform its approach to technology, told the root cause of these failures is a deskilled public service that doesnt understand and sometimes fears 21st Century technology./ppHe said the public service needs to be providing frank and fearless advice to ministers and doing much less butt-covering to avoid blame./ppIf vulnerable people are experiencing the same as Mr Di Sessa, some are likely to simply give up./ppBig changes to family tax benefits, schoolkids bonus, parental leave pay, childcare assistance and other payments are coming into force in 2017. In its drive for budget savings, Malcolm Turnbulls government has targeted family payments and Centrelink benefits for major cuts, many of which came into force on 1 January 2017 while others kick off in the next few months. A middle-income working family with kids at school will lose thousands of dollars./ppThe criticism comes as the distress continues over Centrelinks debt recovery system, which has sent inaccurate debt letters to what appears to be thousands of Aussies. The agency has faced calls from Labor and the Greens to scrap the scheme, which is being investigated by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, but Human Services Minister Alan Tudge yesterday defended the automated process, saying more than $300 million worth of overpayments has been recouped so far as part of an overall claw back of $4 billion./ppHe told ABC radio he wasnt aware of anyone who was completely convinced they dont owe money but have been given a debt notice./ppThe system is working and we will continue with that system, he said. Yes, sometimes people do have to wait longer than what they would like to wait. We simply ask them to be patient, that they will get through or they can go into a Centrelink office./ppiLeave your comment below or email emma.this site/i/p