On the eve of the Federal Budget, the Prime Minister was asked if the Government would be willing to make a “small but significant” change in the Budget to reduce the deficit.
He replied: “Yes”.
He said the Government was prepared to “consider making a small but significant change” in the budget to reduce “the deficit”.
“We will be looking at the implications of this and the implications for people and businesses and the economy,” he said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s answer, which has been described as an “absolute classic” by ABC political analyst David Marr, was that the Government did not have the “mandate” to reduce public spending.
“The budget is based on the principle that the Commonwealth has a role in the economy and that the Federal budget has an impact on the economy, and the budget is the tool for the Federal government to make that case,” he told reporters.
Mr Turnbull said he would have the Budget before Parliament next week to “consult on the best way to reduce our deficit”.
“I’m not looking at any particular date,” he added.
It comes after Mr Turnbull said the Budget would “not make the cut” on public sector pay increases, claiming he wanted to be clear that he did not want to cut “the wages of Australians”.
But Labor has rejected the prime minister’s claim that the Budget was not an opportunity to cut public sector wages.
Labor’s spokesman on Budget and Public Expenditure, Mark Butler, told ABC News the budget would have to be “considered in the context of the Australian economy”.
“The government has to balance its budget,” he warned.
“That’s the first responsibility of the Government.”
Labor also has questioned whether Mr Turnbull has the power to cut the Federal pensioner tax concessions, as the Budget proposed to do.
Earlier, Mr Turnbull’s budget included an $800,000 cut to the “previous-year pensioner relief allowance”, which would have paid a $100,000 benefit to older Australians.
The Government has said the plan will not change the pensioners entitlement to an allowance of $150,000.
But Mr Butler said Mr Turnbull had been “bogus” about what the change would mean.
“The proposal that the Prime Ministers has made will not affect the entitlement of older Australians to that money,” he noted.