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Joe Hockey's budget overtures may be too little, too late

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Libs reject Costello's advice

The Treasurer Joe Hockey says the advice from former Treasurer Peter Costello to drop the GP co-payment isn't helpful.

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Joe Hockey is right to argue the budget needs to be placed on a more sustainable footing over the long term. It is also correct that most of the budget has already passed through the Parliament.

But that's not the point. About $40 billion in structural savings including the $7 GP co-payment, changes to welfare, higher education, other social security measures and the restarting of fuel excise indexation (to say nothing of the mining tax and its associated spending measures) are outstanding.

But even as Hockey engages in belated crossbench diplomacy, criss-crossing the country for the past fortnight, it's hard to escape the feeling that it may be too little, too late. Public debate on measures that carry the imprimatur of the Treasurer may be lost. If anything, the fallout from the budget has worsened as the weeks have passed.

Crossbench positions have hardened. Crucial time was lost when Hockey took a holiday in the first sitting week of the new Senate.

Hockey's friends argue the focus of that first week was always going to be the carbon tax, but it's hard not to wonder if an extra meeting or three might have helped.

Now, even as Hockey warns ''don't count you chickens'', his colleagues are conceding compromise will come. Education Minister Christopher Pyne has signalled that changes to the education package are possible and Health Minister Peter Dutton is working on the design of the GP co-payment.

As John Howard observed in June, to be convinced about the need for reform Australians ''want to be satisfied that it's fundamentally fair''. Thus far, the Treasurer has not made the case.

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84 comments

  • Forget about convincing Australians that the budget needs to be fair- he is yet to convince anyone that there is a budget emergency needing a slash and burn budget at all. To the contrary- this has been exposed as one big lie- as Naomi Klein would say, he's taken Australians for fools and tried a bit of 'Shock Doctrine' or even 'Disaster Capitalism'. As someone commented the other day- Australians are not as dumb and easily led as their US counterparts.

    Commenter
    Sausagefingers
    Date and time
    August 12, 2014, 6:44AM
    • @Sausagefingers:
      Joe Hockey had his chance and blew it big time. Even the most maladroit Treasurer should have known that you can't sell a lop sided series of expenditure cuts levelled at a disadvantaged majority in the electorate and expect it to go over a treat. The budget needed to be framed in such a way that the top end of town was seen to be bearing a proportionate share of the burden. The sop, and that's what it was, of a temporary levy on those earning over $180k showed that they were aware of the equity problem but a slap using the wet lettuce leaf approach was never going to work. Perhaps if they had shown some guts by removing the diesel fuel rebate from the ever greedy and highly profitable miners it might have improved the outcome.

      Commenter
      JohnC
      Location
      Gosford NSW
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 7:41AM
    • Claims of a budget emergency are overblown, but Labor has undersold the need for structural reform and the problems we face into the future. Given the two views, I would rather that we do something now than live in denial until the deficit spirals out of control.

      Commenter
      Flanders
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 8:16AM
    • Convincing??? The Coalition needs to convince the electorate that they are actually an effective and reliable government with integrity - one that deserves trust.

      Currently, the Coalition is none of the above. It is demonstrating an unbelievable level of amateurish incompetence, ignorance and arrogance.

      Commenter
      hertgen
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 8:21AM
    • We have seen the danger in giving any one group too much power. The government needs to govern in the interests of all Australians and do so in a fair way. If they do this they would be reelected. There is still time to demonstrate this. If not, another party needs to be given a chance.

      Commenter
      Good Logic
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 8:32AM
    • There you go missing the point Flanders, like the good rusted on Liberal supporter that you are. Its like you actually believe that the only way the budget can be balanced is by the unfair measures proposed by Hockey.

      Most people would rather do something now with the Budget as you put it. Could have looked at other measures super concessions, negative gearing so on so forth. But no, tripling the cost of higher education and a co-payment that doesn't even go back into the Budget...

      Commenter
      Sam the man
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 8:34AM
    • Don't we love to claim our superiority to the Americans - it's a favourite pass time of Aussies. Sorry, any electorate that could have voted this mob in on the basis of ridiculous 3 word slogans is in every sense dumber and more easily led astray than the Americans. Remember most Americans don't even vote - we all did and look what we voted for!

      Commenter
      Cockeyed Observer
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 8:36AM
    • Flanders,
      Labor has not lived in denial. You may recall prior to the election it tried to bring in a number of measures in its last budget to increase revenue but these were knocked back by Abbott in the senate.
      We do not need large 'corrective' action now as you suggest. The IMF & World Bank has also said so.
      We need small changes and over a longer time frame (not this parliamentary sitting).
      Given a 5-10 years & GDP above 2.5% the deficit will be down to about 10% of GDP, down from the current 16% and down from the highs of 20% in 2011.

      Commenter
      Econorat
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 8:56AM
    • Sam the man - 'Most people would rather do something now with the Budget as you put it. Could have looked at other measures super concessions, negative gearing so on so forth'

      Firstly, I am no rusted on supporter of the LNP (not that it matters), so try and play the issue not the man. Secondly, yes, there are a number of ways the Government can attempt to return to surplus and tackle structural reform. The budget was a start, even though it hit low income households too hard. But Labor has no intention of engaging with the Government to find a compromise. It has not even supported its own savings measures. Clearly, it is seeking political advantage over achieving any good outcomes for the national interest. I don't support either side taking that approach.

      Commenter
      Flanders
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 9:22AM
    • It's all over joey boy, you blew your chance just like that cigar.
      I heard someone ask joe's smoking pal ,mattias corman, what he thinks the problem is,
      he reckons
      "It's der Labor Party's fault.".

      We were told:
      we would get responsible,accountable government that governs for all(blokes),
      that the adults were in charge,
      that these guys were ready to govern, they had done it before and they could do it again.
      Within all their other lies what has been borne out is just hollow men making hollow statements.
      A more bought-and-sold ,disorganised, hypocritical,spin oriented, out-of their-depth bunch of clowns in Canberra than this lot of throwback ideologues I have not seen before in my entire life.

      Commenter
      nkelly
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 9:32AM

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