Palmer United Party Senate leader Glenn Lazarus says it would be “political suicide” for the Government to go ahead with its threat to raise taxes if it cannot get its budget passed.
Yesterday, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann warned that if spending cuts were blocked then “the only alternative to balance the books is to increase taxes”.
Parliament resumes tomorrow after a five-week break marked by meetings between senior ministers and cross-bench senators.
But the talks failed to break the Senate impasse over the Coalition’s plans to cut and change university funding, cut family payments, impose an increase to the fuel excise and a $7 fee on GP visits, X-rays and blood tests.
The people of Queensland and Australia having more money in their pocket would spend it more wisely and stimulate the economy.
Senator Lazarus said the Government needed to propose “better” ways to improve the nation’s books.
“It’d be political suicide for the Abbott Government if they did try to introduce more taxes to the Australian public,” he told Fairfax Radio in Brisbane.
“I can’t see that happening.
“We’re very open to ideas, and I just think the Government needs to go back into the party room and sit down with more common sense and come up with better ideas as far as budget measures are concerned.”
The PUP senator, who holds one of eight crucial crossbench seats in the Upper House, instead called for income tax cuts to stimulate the economy.
“We can keep the GST obviously and just reduce income tax,” he said.
“The people of Queensland and Australia having more money in their pocket would spend it more wisely and stimulate the economy.”
Independent accuses Coalition of bullying senators
Independent Lower House MP Andrew Wilkie accused the Government of trying to “bully” the crossbench.
“For the Government now to be trying to bully the crossbenchers in the Senate is completely and utterly unacceptable,” he said.
“Instead of trying to bully the senators, what the Government should be understanding is that they have created a completely unsatisfactory document and they need to go back and redo it.”
But Treasurer Joe Hockey, who has been criticised for his budget sales pitch, said the Government was determined to press ahead and had been “methodically” putting the budget in place.
“Despite the obstructionism of Labor and the Greens, who have offered no solutions of their own, this government is calmly getting on with the job of running the country and negotiating a sustainable budget,” he wrote in today’s Australian Financial Review.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten rejected suggestions the Labor Party had been rendered irrelevant in budget negotiations.
He said the Government was “arrogant” in its approach and had not approached the Opposition over budget compromises.
“They would not dream of talking to us,” he said.
“Labor will vote for sensible measures, as we have, but on these key issues of unfairness Labor must be true to the Australian people.”
Joyce warns debt is like a ‘financial melanoma’
Greens leader Christine Milne also has the votes to dilute the Palmer United Party’s Upper House influence.
She will meet crossbenchers this fortnight to discuss alternative budget savings and to try and find common ground.
But Senator Milne said she was not changing her party’s stance on some contentious measures.
“Tony Abbott’s supposed to be leading some kind of war cabinet in Parliament this week to try and get his budget through,” she said.
“Well he’s very keen on military titles for things, so he should have Operation Drop The Budget, Operation Drop The Co-Payments.”
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said while he understood there was concern about budget measures, it would be irresponsible to defer budget savings.
“I understand the concerns people have, I fully understand them, but what is our alternative?” he said.
“We either accept that we’ve got a debt problem and we’ve got to turn it around or we basically say, ‘No, it’s only a small melanoma on our arm and if we just wait long enough it will go away’.
“No, as a financial melanoma, it will kill you.”