The Abbott government remains open to negotiating some of its budget measures with the Senate, but Treasurer Joe Hockey has all but ruled out compromise on a GP co-payment.
Labor has vowed to oppose efforts to introduce a $7 fee for visiting the GP, claiming it undermines the universality of Medicare.
The treasurer says the government is prepared to talk with Labor and incoming senators about its budget plans, but warns they won’t be the only ones frustrated if they run into flat-out opposition.
“If the immediate answer of everyone in the Senate is no, then I think the Australian people have a low, low tolerance for that,” he said.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he won’t surrender his government’s budget commitments to the Senate, and has hinted a double dissolution election isn’t out of the question if negotiations fail.
The government has proposed putting $5 of the $7 co-payment into a Medical Research Future Fund to drive breakthroughs in treating diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.
The remaining $2 would go to GPs for their consultations.
Mr Hockey said the government had made its case for the co-payment, and it wasn’t willing to budge.
“I don’t think we should compromise,” he said.
“If the independents and the Labor party want to have a medical research future fund, there has to be a co-payment. You cannot have both.”
Labor Senate leader Penny Wong said her party would not stand in the way on the proposed deficit levy for those earning more than $180,000.
However, the opposition was “not for moving” on changes to pensions and Medicare, or cuts to health and education funding, she said.
Senator Wong ruled out negotiation on the coalition’s plans to deregulate universities, despite Education Minister Christopher Pyne saying he was open to changes on student fees.
“I’m certainly not going to respond to whatever latest thought bubble from Christopher Pyne,” she told ABC Television.
Their opposition to the Medicare co-payment was also non-negotiable, she said.
“If Tony Abbott wants to do that he’s going to have to come through us in the Senate,” she said.