Labor MP Tony Burke Photo: Alex EllinghausenOpposition frontbencher Tony Burke has rebuked the government’s approach to budget repair, accusing them of lying about the detail of the centrepiece omnibus savings bill that the Coalition challenged Labor to support.
Nanjing Night Net

As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declares reducing government debt a “massive moral challenge”, Mr Burke says the government’s attempts to win Labor’s support for more than $6 billion of savings have been “entirely deceptive” and denied Labor had previously supported all the proposals as has been claimed.

“They said there were 21 measures. It turns out there were 24. They said that all the measures were measures that we’d included in our costings. It looks like now there is at least one that wasn’t in the costings that we, in fact, previously in the Parliament voted against,” the manager of opposition business in the lower house told Sky News.

“There are other issues where we had a particular approach in a policy area where there might be a saving but there would be an investment somewhere else and they’re just wanting to take half the equation.”

Fairfax Media understands the proposal Mr Burke referred to is one ceasing social security payments for people in psychiatric confinement.

But Treasurer Scott Morrison said the measure was factored into the opposition’s forward estimates.

“The estimates for that measure were included in their deficit at the election,” he said.

“What they were trying to do is sneak the savings in there, in the election campaign, and not mention it and hoping everyone would forget about it on the other side of the election.”

Mr Burke said the opposition had only received the 600 pages of the legislation overnight – too late for Monday’s Labor caucus meeting – and rejected the claim that all of its measures were included in the party’s pre-election costings.

“So the government has been entirely deceptive with this. And if their first action is to lie to the Australian people about what was meant to be their centrepiece bill, that really tells you what the Turnbull government is going to be like,” he told ABC radio.

The Labor caucus is undergoing internal debate over various contentious measures contained in the omnibus bill, including the abolition of the energy supplement for social security recipients and the cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The energy supplement cessation was included in Labor’s costings but there is concern about the consequences of the cut, which would strip recipients of Newstart, disability payments and pensions of between $4.40 and $7.05 per week.

Some Labor figures have said Labor will vote in line with their pre-election position but senior left-winger Anthony Albanese warned on Sunday that the party should be “very cautious about voting for anything that hurts some of the most underprivileged people in our community”.

He said they should come to a position “according to Labor values”.

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