The man who helped provide the blueprint for Treasurer Joe Hockey's austere first budget has lashed out at ''narrow sectional interests'', including his ''good mate'' David Gonski, for the hostile community response.
The head of the Abbott government's Commission of Audit, Tony Shepherd, said the commission had ''agonised'' about spreading the burden of repairing the budget across the community but no single sector, including education, had accepted it must sacrifice.
"I think it's a sad reflection on the modern Australian attitude that they can't see that all areas have to make a contribution,": Tony Shepherd. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
''I think it's a sad reflection on the modern Australian attitude that they can't see that all areas have to make a contribution and they look at it as a narrow, sectional issue,'' he said.
''People will protect their sectional interest, that's understandable, but I wish people could also stand back, look at the overall picture of the Commonwealth budget and rather than say 'don't touch me', say 'what can be our contribution to a sustainable surplus'.''
It comes as Liberal backbencher George Christensen, the LNP member for the Queensland electorate of Dawson, posted a photo of an impoverished child on social media and suggested complaints about the budget lacked perspective.
"Aussies should do a tour of Asia & live like locals to put these 1st world complaints re budget in perspective," he wrote. He followed up his original tweet with: ''Try getting any serious form of welfare in Thailand or other SE Asian nations.''
The Abbott government is faced with widespread protest - both physical and rhetorical - from groups as diverse as students, pensioners, welfare recipients, state governments and the health and education sectors.
Mr Hockey adopted the commission's recommendation to pull the plug on Gonski funding from 2018 and instead apply increases based on inflation and wages. In a speech on Wednesday, Mr Gonski savaged the government and the audit commission for gutting funding commitments made in the name of his schools review.
Mr Shepherd returned fire, saying: ''I have the greatest respect for David Gonski, who is one of the finest human beings I've ever met - but on this we disagree.''
He described the Gonski reforms as a ''fine idea'' and said the audit commissioners agreed with needs-based funding but retaining the $5 billion a year extra funding would have to come at the expense of other sectors if there was an overriding commitment to bring the budget back into balance.
''We would have loved to have kept education funding at the levels of Gonski but we had to go through every program and bring [spending] under control. To maintain Gonski you must answer the question: do we cut hospitals more? Or cut disabled pensions more? Lower the rate of growth in the aged pension?'' he said.
While Mr Gonski praised federal education bureaucrats for their dedication, Mr Shepherd said a twin layer of bureaucracy was a ''waste of money'' and renewed calls for the states to ''quit the education and health space''.
''States that preside over a bad [school] system will be punished by voters and those that have good ones will be rewarded, that's competitive federalism,'' he said.
Mr Abbott who encountered 100 pro-Gonski protesters in Hobart on Thursday, said Labor's Gonski commitments were ''pie-in-the-sky''.
''I'm certainly not committing to a permanent massive increase at the same level of the former government,'' he said. ''We are continuing to increase funding, it's just that we are not continuing to increase it at the rate of the former government's promises.''
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the government got ''an F'' for effort. ''What a lazy, reckless, indifferent mob of swindlers this government are when they say we're not going to have anything more to do with the funding of schools.''