Prime Minister Tony Abbott spoke to the media after a roads announcement in western Sydney. Photo: Simon BennettNew year brings new approach for Joe HockeyCalls to delay university reforms
Prime Minister Tony Abbott predicts his government will face another “long, hard slog” in the Senate to pass budget savings but says he has not lost his drive for difficult policy reform.
Mr Abbott returned from holidays on Tuesday with a vow to push ahead with plans to introduce more price signals into the health system and deregulate university fees.
Mr Abbott also acknowledged there had been “vigorous discussions” within cabinet’s powerful Expenditure Review Committee about a proposed $20 rebate cut for short GP consultations.
Reports on Sunday said Treasurer Joe Hockey and former health minister Peter Dutton opposed the cuts but Mr Abbott overruled them during a heated exchange.
The government ultimately dropped the cut last week following a revolt from Liberal backbenchers, Senate crossbenchers and the Australian Medical Association.
“We’ve taken this particular element of a series of proposals off the table pending further consultation with the medical profession – that’s the sensible thing to do,” Mr Abbott said.
“We’ve got to protect our great Medicare system and over time that does mean more price signals in the system.”
Mr Hockey on Monday raised the prospect of people living until 150 when selling the case for cuts to government benefits and consumers paying a greater share of their health costs.
Mr Abbott said: “We got the fundamentals right last year. Yes, it’s been a long, hard slog with the Senate, and I dare say that long, hard slog will continue.”
The government’s higher education reforms – including a 20 per cent course funding cut and a full deregulation of fees – would be “front and centre” of the government’s agenda when Parliament resumes in February, Mr Abbott said.
Mr Abbott said former Labor MP Maxine McKew’s call for Labor to strike a compromise deal to boost university revenues showed the need for reform.
The government’s reform package is “very important for our universities, it’s very important for our future as a creative, dynamic society and economy and that’s why we are absolutely persisting with these important reforms”, he said.
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