Treasurer Scott Morrison has been copping it from all directions after handing down the mid-year budget review on Tuesday.
His debut announcement in his new role has been met with criticism, for not taking greater control of deficits and debt, as well for the saving measures undertaken to pay for new spending since May.
But Mr Morrison hit back at his critics on the airways on Wednesday to defend his approach to the budget.
He said the suggestion that he should be chasing commodities prices “down a hole” with even more significant savings measures or higher taxes would put jobs and growth at risk.
At the same time he was being attacked for placing the greater burden of over $10 billion of savings on the health system – including cuts to imaging and pathology bulk billing subsidies which were tipped to save the government $639 million across four years.
“I’ve got a simple message to all those who take issue with the savings measures. Show us the alternatives,” Mr Morrison told ABC radio.
“I’ll take something off the table if someone can put something on the table of equal measure.”
The cuts have been described by health groups as a ‘Medicare co-payment by stealth’.
“To immediately … politicise it in those terms is not a helpful way to have a mature debate about the issue,” Mr Morrison said.
The Royal College of Pathologists Australasia warns the changes could force patients to forgo tests which could delay early diagnosis of cancer and result in premature deaths.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the government was wrong and would vote against some of the health cuts.
“Labor will oppose the idea that Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals have that the only way that Australia can get ahead is by attacking Medicare,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Sydney.
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen agreed that some of the measures were particularly harsh, and told the ABC that he would “absolutely” look at blocking some cuts in the Senate.
“We’re not in any mind to wave through harsh cuts,” he said.
“That is not our inclination at all, to give a rubber stamp to these sorts of broken promises and harsh cuts.”
– with AAP