After weeks of being flayed for the potential nasties in Tuesday’s budget, Joe Hockey has tried to cool concerns with a plan to boost jobs.
The treasurer’s first budget will contain a six-year road building plan in excess of $80 billion, which Mr Hockey believes will create tens of thousands of jobs and prevent unemployment hitting the 6.25 per cent rate predicted by the previous Labor government.
“We are going to do everything we can to make sure we never get there,” he told Channel Nine on Sunday.
He also confirmed that Prime Minister Tony Abbott had written to the Independent Remuneration Tribunal to freeze the salaries of politicians and senior public servants for a year.
It means they’ll miss out on a 2.4 per cent increase while also paying a new deficit levy on all high income earners.
“We’ve got to send a very clear message to the electorate that whatever we are asking the electorate to contribute to the budget repair task, we are going to contribute ourselves as well,” Mr Hockey said.
His comments came as a new opinion poll showed Labor being backed by an election-winning 54 per cent of voters, against 46 per cent for the coalition.
People are strongly opposed to key budget measures that include lifting the pension age to 70 and a co-payment for doctor visits.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the quality of health care shouldn’t depend on someone’s credit card, and he flagged that Labor wouldn’t make life easy for the government.
“We see no point in a petrol tax, a GP tax, a hospital tax,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
“We think it takes Australia down a very sick and sorry path where some Australians will not get the medical care they need because Tony Abbott is putting pressure on their budgets and on their cost of living.”
Government frontbencher Jamie Briggs has conceded it will be a “very difficult” budget to sell to both the general public and to get through the parliament.
“We didn’t create this mess but we are going to take the responsibility to fix it,” the assistant infrastructure minister told Sky News.
Mr Hockey refuses to accept that initiatives – in what he is calling his “contribute and build” budget – would be breaking an election promise.
Some initiatives include a deficit levy on high income earners and an increased fuel excise but Mr Hockey said: “We never said we were going to never change a tax or alter a tax”.
He said if the government went down the road of raising fuel excise, which has been frozen since 2001, the revenue would go into roads.
The commonwealth would contribute in excess of $40 billion to its roads plan, which Mr Hockey said would be matched by the states and the private sector.
He said the budget would be fixed in a structural manner, but at the same time stimulate economic growth and address the significant drop off in mining investment.
“Everything we are doing on Tuesday night is going to be about jobs and about prosperity,” Mr Hockey said.