News ‘Respect and expect’: Coalition to cut public service funding
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‘Respect and expect’: Coalition to cut public service funding

Morrison defends Coalition's housing policy

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison will order “well paid” public servant bosses to make $2.7 billion in cuts to help the government claw back its trillion-dollar debt, but insists money won’t be slashed from essential services.

At a press conference near Darwin in the marginal seat of Lingiari on Tuesday, Mr Morrison said a re-elected Coalition government would seek to cut $2.7 billion from a departmental expenditure budget of $327.3 billion over four years.

Asked by The New Daily which departments or agencies would be targeted, Mr Morrison said the cuts wouldn’t affect programs or services, but instead would target accommodation and administration bills.

“If our senior public servants – and they’re paid well – if they can’t find $2.7 billion out of a budget of $327.3 billion, well, I’ve got a lot more confidence that they can achieve that,” he said.

“This is a sensible practical measure, which is, I think, responsibly being applied to ensure that you responsibly manage your expenditure.”

Mr Morrison said he respected public servants and trusted them to make “sensible decisions” about how they could cut funding.

“They (public servants) understand that respect and expect – that’s always been my chatter with the public service that I’ve always led,” he said.

“That means they will make those sensitive decisions about the best way to achieve that.”

Mr Morrison said that under a re-elected Coalition government the ABC would not be asked to cut funding and that its budget would instead increase.

But he would not weigh in on whether it would cut spending on consultants and the out-sourcing of work.

The Coalition has used the release of its costings on Tuesday to emphasise its economic management credentials, claiming it would achieve a $1 billion improvement to the federal budget bottom line over four years, compared to the March budget.

That will be achieved by lifting the efficiency dividend applied to government departments and agencies by 0.5 percentage points to 2 per cent.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said $2.3 billion had been committed for 35 policies. They include more seniors having access to the health concession card, reducing the co-payments for taxpayer-subsidised medicines and a new policy to support first home buyers into the property market by allowing them to access their superannuation.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham promised essential services would not be cut to make the savings.

“The opportunities for departments … exist in relation to management of their accommodation, technology, consultancies and contractors, their staffing arrangements,” Senator Birmingham said in Melbourne.

“These in no way impact the delivery of services and support to Australians. Essential services remain guaranteed under the Coalition.”

Mr Frydenberg took aim at the opposition for not yet releasing its policy costings, calling on leader Anthony Albanese to “fess up”.

But Labor, which is expected to release its policy costings by Thursday, has rejected the government’s criticism.

Australians would know the details before election day, campaign spokeswoman Penny Wong said.

“We’re doing what oppositions, including Mr Morrison’s party, have done for many elections, so there’s nothing unusual about this,” she told ABC TV.

On Tuesday morning, the Prime Minister visited a housing display village near Palmerston, just south of Darwin.

The housing development is in the seat of Lingiari, which the Coalition hopes to wrest back from Labor from its 5.5 per cent margin.

Mr Morrison used the visit to continue spruiking the Coalition’s policy to allow first-home buyers to use up to 40 per cent of their superannuation savings, up to a maximum value of $50,000, to help buy a home.

He took a swipe at Labor’s criticism of the policy, saying the party had “lost touch completely” after it argued the plan would “blow up the housing market in Australia”.

“The most important investment you made in your entire life as a family is owning your own home,” Mr Morrison said.

“If Labor thinks that’s a gamble, then I have lost touch completely with the aspirations and goals of Australian families who their first objective is to ensure that they can own a home.”

The Prime Minister then travelled to the neighbouring seat of Solomon, also held by Labor on a 3.1 per cent margin, to visit the Palmerston 50+ Club at a community hall.

During his visit, Mr Morrison spoke to members about law and order concerns in the Northern Territory, as well as the impact of natural disasters.

He later visited the CareFlight critical care aeromedical retrieval service, before heading on a plane to his next destination.

Mr Albanese began Tuesday in Perth, where he channelled Australian Labor luminaries and promised to be a prime minister for Western Australia – much like former leaders John Curtin and Bob Hawke.

“When I refer to Hawke and Curtin, it’s not an act of nostalgia, but a reminder of what can be done when you come to the table with courage, vision and ambition,” Mr Albanese said.

“A reminder that good government can create profound and lasting change that improves lives. A reminder that with a better government, we can build a better future.”

– with AAP