• Abbott, Hockey sell budget tough love
Tony Abbott says he won’t be rethinking his budget despite the states and territories promising to inflict political pain on his government over $80 billion in budget cuts.
Premiers and chief ministers are demanding an emergency meeting with the prime minister before the end of July, saying cuts to health and education funding will have an immediate impact on services.
But Mr Abbott has rebuffed the demand, saying he speaks regularly to state and territory leaders.
He says the cuts won’t come for three years so the Commonwealth and states have time to develop a new funding model.
“There’s plenty of time to come to grips with this and the best possible ways to deal with it,” he told ABC radio.
“Let’s talk all of this through and come up with a system that come 2017-18 … we have schools and hospitals which are well funded, which are better run, and let’s have a federation that works better as well.”
But at a meeting in Sydney on Sunday state and territory leaders rejected the cuts as “completely unacceptable” and said hundreds of hospital beds would have to be closed across the country.
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill promised the states and territories will cause the “maximum amount of political pain” for the Abbott government unless it reverses the cuts.
“We can explain to people the depth of these $80 billion cuts, the effect that they’re going to have on people getting quality health care or get a quality education for your children,” he told ABC radio.
NSW Premier Mike Baird predicted NSW would lose $2 billion over the next four years.
Victoria’s Denis Napthine dismissed suggestions the cuts would have no impact until 2017.
“Our advice is that’s simply not accurate and we need to sit down and sort that out,” he told ABC radio.
The Abbott government is facing a voter backlash over Tuesday’s 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.
Two polls published on Monday showed the coalition had taken a massive hit because of the tough budget, with Newspoll giving the Labor opposition a 10 point lead and the Fairfax-Nielsen poll a 12 point advantage.
Mr Abbott said the government would not rethink the budget, despite the anger of state and territory leaders, the poor polling and opposition in the Senate.
“We have put forward a very carefully thought through, sensible, reasonable, moderate way forward, and we’re just going to push on with it,” he said.