Australians want a man with a plan, not a bunch of complainers.
And that’s why Tony Abbott remains confident the $7 Medicare co-payment and other budget measures will get through parliament, insisting opponents have only criticism, not alternatives.
“Whether it’s (opposition leader) Bill Shorten, whether it’s the Greens, whether it’s others – it’s one long chorus of complaint,” the prime minister said.
“The man with the plan has an extraordinary advantage over the person who has just got the complaint.”
The prime minister said he did not expect people to like the Medicare co-payment but he expected them to support it.
Just as the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) co-payment did not affect Australia’s health system, nor will the Medicare contribution, he said.
He questioned why the Labor Party was taking the moral high-ground on the co-payment when its former leader Bob Hawke sought to do just that in the 1990s.
Mr Hawke proposed a $2.50 Medicare co-payment in 1991 but it was abandoned by Paul Keating when he became prime minister.
The PBS co-payment was introduced by Labor in the late 80s.
Mr Abbott said it was bizarre for Labor to be “waxing morally indignant” about one co-payment when it introduced another type, the PBS co-payment.
He said the PBS co-payment had not damaged the universality of the health system and neither would the Medicare one.
But Opposition frontbencher Jason Clare said Mr Hawke was wrong to try to introduce the co-payment, and Labor made it known to him back then.
“So if we’re prepared to stand up to Bob Hawke on it, you can bet that we’re prepared to stand up to Tony Abbott on this as well,” he said.
Mr Abbott, who admits refinement of some measures may be necessary, continues to make “courtesy calls” to various minor party and independent senators to stress the importance of delivering the budget and scrapping the carbon and mining taxes.
He defused questions about whether he had a difficult relationship with Clive Palmer, whose party with key independents would hold the balance of power in the Senate from July 1.
It was “perfectly normal” for senior members of the coalition, like frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull, to hold talks with Mr Palmer in his place.
“Over time I’m confident that (Mr Palmer) will have a constructive relationship with the government,” Mr Abbott said.