Prime Minister Tony Abbott appears to have backed away from his threat to hold a double dissolution election over the budget, saying the cross-benchers would understand its harsher measures.
The coalition government will struggle to get the harshest of its budget measures through the Senate, with Labor, the Greens and Palmer United Party all saying they will block changes such as the Medicare co-payment and pension cuts.
But Mr Abbott said he did not think there would be a need for a double dissolution election.
Last week his comments that some of the incoming Senate cross-benchers would be unlikely to keep their seats if there was a new election was interpreted as a threat of a double dissolution.
He expected the next election in the middle of 2016, he said on Sunday.
“I am confident that the minor parties and the independents in the Senate will understand that we could not go on living the way we were – we could not go on mortgaging the future,” he said.
“If they don’t like what we’re putting up, what are they going to put up as an alternative.”
Mr Abbott said his government would not be exposing itself to a “world of political pain” unless its tough budget was absolutely necessary, after a poll showed it was facing a massive backlash.
The latest Galaxy poll, published by News Corp, found 75 per cent think they will be worse off as a result of the budget, which hiked the fuel excise, cut welfare, health and education spending, and introduced a new GP co-payment and deficit tax on the wealthy.
Mr Abbott said everyone would play their part to rein in government spending, and bring the budget back to surplus.
“I think the load is fairly shared because that’s the Australian way,” Mr Abbott said.
“This is all happening because we were living beyond our means. We’re not doing this because we are somehow political sadomasochists.”
Mr Abbott defended the tough budget measures, most of which were not flagged before the election, saying “we could not just sit here and do nothing”.
“Why would I be exposing myself, why would my colleague be exposing themselves to a world of political pain if we didn’t think it was absolutely necessary for the long-term good of our country?” he asked.