Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey’s call for everyone to take a “chill pill” over the budget has brought a heated response from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
The government is working behind the scenes to garner support for contentious measures in its ill-received budget ahead of parliament sitting on August 26.
Mr Hockey has reached out to crossbench upper house MPs and so far they have been prepared to meet and listen.
He held private talks with Palmer United Party (PUP) senator Jacqui Lambie in Hobart on Friday and is due to meet Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm next week.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne has also been meeting “relentlessly” with crossbench senators to discuss a proposed higher education fees shake-up and Health Minister Peter Dutton says he’s had “sensible” discussions with PUP leader and lower house MP Clive Palmer over plans to introduce a $7 co-payment for GP visits.
But Mr Hockey played down the difficulties the government faces in getting its remaining measures passed in the upper house, where it needs the support of six crossbenchers – the majority of whom are PUP members.
“It’s important that everyone has a bit of a chill pill here and understands that the budget is a long-term structural plan to address Labor’s deficits and debt,” he told Sky News.
The comments angered Mr Shorten, who described them as “arrogant, patronising and out of touch” given the concern parents and pensioners have about some of the government’s budget measures.
“Joe Hockey should stop telling Australians to take a chill pill because they don’t like his budget,” Mr Shorten told reporters.
While Mr Hockey attends to Australia’s fiscal needs the central banks, which attends to its monetary policy needs, looks far from needing a chill pill.
The Reserve Bank of Australia holds its monthly board meeting next Tuesday and is expected to leave the cash interest rate at an all time low of 2.5 per cent for the 12th time in a row since it was last cut in August 2013.
Two pieces of inflation-related data released on Friday suggests it’s unlikely to change its stance anytime soon.
Prices paid by businesses eased slightly in the June quarter after the appreciation of the Australian dollar lowered the cost of imported goods, suggesting consumers could also benefit from lower prices.
Capital city house prices also rose a further 1.6 per cent on average, although gains were not even with four cities actually going backwards, while manufacturing activity expanded for only the first time this year.
“The Reserve Bank would be comfortable about the mix of economic results … in short, no reason to change policy settings,” Commonwealth Securities economist Savanth Sebastian said.