PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has taken advantage of a coalition decision to delay details of its budget savings to declare it will drive Australia into recession next year.
On a day when Opposition Leader Tony Abbott stole the headlines with details of his “fully costed” $5.5 billion-a-year paid parental leave scheme, Labor tried to turn attention to budget cuts.
Mr Rudd travelled to western Sydney to highlight a $357 million health system injection, saying Labor was deeply committed to the sector and driving jobs and innovation.
But the coalition had a budget hole that could only be filled by European-style austerity cuts.
“He’s just told us that he’s got a secret plan for $70 billion worth of cuts to jobs, health and education,” Mr Rudd said on Sunday.
“If Mr Abbott proceeds with the $70 billion worth of cuts, and we can only assume he will, he runs a very grave risk in 2014, if he is elected, of throwing this economy into recession.”
The coalition’s policies have been sent to the Parliamentary Budget Office for costing and its assessment is still to come back.
Mr Abbott has said all of its plan will be released by the final week before the 7 September poll and rejects major savings in education and health are being targeted.
“Mr Abbott is being deliberately evasive,” Mr Rudd said.
“His campaign is being deliberately evasive.”
Mr Abbott on Sunday focused on his signature policy – a paid parental leave scheme aimed at helping working mothers but not at the expense of business.
Under the scheme, working women get 26 weeks’ maternity leave on full pay – up to a cap of $75,000 – plus superannuation for each baby born from 1 July, 2015.
It will be funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on about 3000 companies earning more than $5 million in taxable income a year and offset by a previously announced corporate tax cut from mid-2015.
The coalition estimates the final net cost at $6 billion over the forward estimates, after budget savings and the scrapping of Labor’s scheme.
“This isn’t a generous scheme, this is a fair scheme,” Mr Abbott said in Melbourne.
But Mr Rudd said he would be “relying on cuts from elsewhere” to fund it and championed Labor’s 18 weeks at the minimum wage as an affordable plan that didn’t discriminate in favour of high earning women.
Labor also argues businesses, particularly those with in-house parental schemes, could pass on the levy cost to consumers, although Mr Abbott argues their overall tax burden won’t be increased.
As the election campaign enters its third week, Labor is preparing to carpet bomb the coalition over how it’s going to fund its policies and promises, particularly on health.
Mr Rudd predicted the coalition would “dive, dive dive for cover”.
Meanwhile, Labor will preference the Australian Greens over the coalition in the Senate – except in Queensland where it’s done a deal with Bob Katter’s Australia Party.
The Greens will return the favour, and many of its local branches intend to preference Labor in lower house marginal seats. – AAP