POLITICS

Labor Not Keen On Dancing To Turnbull's Tune On Budget Repair

Shorten tells PM to drop the megaphone.

17/08/2016 3:14 PM AEST | Updated August 17, 2016 17:51
Nic Walker, Fairfax
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says the PM just expects Labor to dance to his tune

CANBERRA -- Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has derided the Prime Minister's effort to "reach across the aisle" over budget repair saying Malcolm Turnbull is not off to a good start by negotiating 'by megaphone".

In a major post-election speech -- which was disrupted by refugee advocates in a major security breach -- Malcolm Turnbull announced Wednesday a plan to pressure Labor to support around $6.5 billion worth of Government budget savings.

The Government is to package in an 'omnibus bill', savings that the Opposition previously rejected but back flipped and supported during the election campaign.

Alex Ellinghausen

"We are ready to reach across the aisle," he told the audience at the Committee for Economic Development (CEDA) event in Melbourne.

"The budget bottom line that Labor outlined during the campaign relied on over $6 billion in Coalition savings that they have not reversed, including $3 billion in measures that they previously opposed."

Those measures include three small higher education savings initiatives and a cut to a research and development tax incentive.

Despite earlier support, the Opposition Leader said Labor would need to see the bill's detail before the party decided its position.

"Our position will be consistent with what we said before the election," he told reporters in Melbourne.

"But let's be clear here, Mr Turnbull says he wants cooperation. Cooperation doesn't involve him telling everyone else what to do."

"If he just expects Labor to dance to his tune and ignore our values and ignore our priorities, well, he's got another thing coming."

The Prime Minister called on Shorten to deliver on his post-election commitment to be constructive and positive, but the Opposition Leader believes Labor is being dictated to.

"For Malcolm Turnbull, words are cheap," he said.

"Of course we'll be constructive, but it speaks volumes for the attitude of this fellow, Turnbull, that what he does, instead of sitting down as convention would dictate, and talking to us about what he has in mind, he's rushed off to announce it in a speech."

"He is negotiating by megaphone. That's not the way to do business. That's not the way to make a Parliament cooperate."

Turnbull has declared that the "time for posturing is over".

"Australians will not stand for a repeat of the aftermath of the 2013 election, when Labor decided -- incredibly -- to oppose savings measures it had itself proposed.

"Nor will voters tolerate a repeat of Labor's most recent exercise in fiscal cynicism, where they opposed responsible savings right up until the eve of the election, only to capitulate at the last moment in what was ultimately a futile attempt to make their numbers add up.

"The onus is on Labor, like everybody else, to revisit and review antiquated policies that represent a roadblock to reform," the Prime Minister said.

In the CEDA speech, Malcolm Turnbull also warned on the move towards the Trumpesque, populistic politics of Pauline Hanson and Nick Xenophon.

"Growth is slowing across the international economy and uncertainty is rising," Turnbull mused.

"Protectionism and inward-looking policies are starting to gain a foothold.

"Political divisions in advanced economies - particularly where there is high unemployment or a high risk of unemployment - are feeding on a sense of disenfranchisement among many people who feel the rapid economic changes of our time have left them behind."

Tough choices are ahead. Turnbull pointed to a global economy "perhaps more fragile than at any time since the financial crisis almost a decade ago".

"Political responses to this mood of disaffection can have the potential to destabilise global growth, perhaps even reversing some of the spectacular gains we have made over recent decades through open markets and free trade.

"I will be asking the Parliament to face up to the fact that Australia's future is and can only be one of confident engagement in the global economy," Turnbull told the Melbourne crowd.

"As a nation, that will mean we need to be at our innovative and competitive best if we are to secure the successful and prosperous future we would all want for ourselves and our families."

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