News National Stop shifting blame, Shorten tells government

Stop shifting blame, Shorten tells government

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Hockey blames Labor for deficit 

The federal opposition says the Abbott government should take responsibility for fixing the budget, as the coalition prepares to blame Labor for a massive forecast deficit.

The mid-year economic and fiscal outlook (MYEFO) on Tuesday will show deficits totalling more than $120 billion over the next four years, starting with a figure close to $50 billion in 2013/14.

The blame will be pinned on past Labor governments, but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says the coalition is now in charge and should start running the country.

“The problem for the Abbott government is that the music has stopped,” he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

“How long can they go on blaming everyone else?”

If the deficit is now closer to $50 billion, that is something that has happened on the new government’s watch.

The coalition will hone in on Labor’s spending record, revealing annual spending rose in the five years to 2012/13 to an average 3.5 per cent, outstripping the 2 per cent limit often promised.

But the opposition says Treasurer Joe Hockey is trying to hide the $20 billion in spending since the election, and the fact it’s no longer on track to deliver a surplus for 2016/17.

Mr Shorten said the first 100 days of the Abbott government had not gone smoothly, and now they were trying to blame everyone else but themselves.

They could find significant budget savings by scrapping plans for the “white elephant” paid-parental leave scheme, he added.

“They should be honest enough to admit that their $22 billion paid parental leave scheme is a joke and Australia can’t afford it,” Mr Shorten said.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said figures released by Treasury during the election campaign forecast a Labor government would deliver a budget deficit of $30 billion this financial year.

“If the deficit is now closer to $50 billion, that is something that has happened on the new government’s watch,” he told ABC Radio.

The MYEFO would reflect the government’s spending decisions, but would not justify deep cuts to public spending predicted for the May budget.

Parliamentary secretary Scott Ryan said it took the Howard government a decade to fix the budget woes inherited from Paul Keating, and this situation was much worse.

But the coalition government would stick by its commitments including the fully-funded paid parental leave scheme.

“You can’t turn around a budget situation like the one we’ve inherited quickly,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.

“We will deliver on the promises we made to the Australian people.”

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