Carbon tax, Jakarta key priorities in Aust opposition's budget reply | Connect Asia

Carbon tax, Jakarta key priorities in Aust opposition's budget reply

Carbon tax, Jakarta key priorities in Aust opposition's budget reply

Updated 17 May 2013, 15:14 AEST

The Australian opposition leader, who many believe will be Prime Minister later this year, has delivered his budget reply speech, insisting he will scrap the carbon tax and will make Jakarta his first overseas visit if elected.

Tony Abbott criticised the ruling Labor Government for delivering so many deficit budgets in a row but supported many of the policies outlined in the Labor budget.

The big difference is that a opposition Coalition Government would get rid of the carbon tax, introduced to encourage moves away from a polluting economy.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane

Correspondent: Karen Barlow


BARLOW: Tony Abbott has declared a budget emergency, thanks to what was announced by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, on Tuesday, in his budget. But Tony Abbott says it's not an economic emergency. Tony Abbott says spending is up and revenue is up, but he's also saying what is the problem here, where is this 17 billion dollar collapse in revenue that the Treasurer had to deal with on Tuesday.
Tony Abbott did go through a lot of promises that he's announced before in his budget reply last night, but overall, he says, he's targeted five billion dollars in savings.
To do this, and, of course, if elected, Tony Abbott would delay by two years the superannuation guarantee increase.
As we've just heard, the long term promise by Tony Abbott to get rid of the carbon tax got a lot of applause from friends and family in the audience last night. But he says to repeal the carbon tax, and he would do this as his first priority in government if elected. He would do this by keeping the associated personal income tax cuts and pension increases, so it's four billion dollars worth of income tax cuts and pension increases that he would keep, because that's a cost of getting rid of the carbon tax.
He has really reannounced some other savings, and that includes reducing the annual humanitarian migrant intake from 20,000 to 13,750 and he's going to reduce through attrition the Commonwealth Public Service by 12,000. We've also heard last night, he's right to implement this caveat of May right to reserve the right to implement Labor's budget cuts. He says they're objectionable, they're going to be short term measures, but he's not saying he's exactly going to do what the Treasurer wants to do, which is save 43 billion dollars in tax increases and spending cuts.
COCHRANE: Karen, there wasn't a lot of detail of foreign policy spending in Tony Abbott's speech. But there was a bit of an indication that a Coalition-led government would be focused on Asia. Can you tell us what Tony Abbott said on that?
BARLOW: Well, this is in the area of promises that Tony Abbott has announced before, but here we have a very specific restating of a Coalition foreign policy that focused on Jakarta and not Geneva. Tony Abbott promised months ago that he's first overseas trip would not be to Washington or Beijing, it would be to Jakarta. 
Tony Abbott backed by behind the scenes work, a lot of behind the scenes work from his foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, promising to have a direct focus on Australia's very close regions. So what we had was just one sentence on foreign policy last night. 
But there was something else that was very, very pointed, very interesting, that the Indonesian Ambassador, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, was in the special visitors gallery on the floor of the House last night, during the budget reply speech. He was specifically invited by Julie Bishop and was seated with Tony Abbott's wife, and two of his daughters, so it seemed like a very pointed message to the wider international audience, despite the very domestic focus of the speech.
And I do understand that in the public gallery there were also specifically invited by Julie Bishop, diplomats from New Zealand and the Solomon Islands.
COCHRANE: Mmm, interesting. The other big news from Canberra yesterday was the decision to excise the Australian mainland from the official migration zone. Can you explain to us what that actually means and how it will affect asylum seekers?
BARLOW: Yes, this was rushed through yesterday. The order of the Senate got changed, to make sure that this happened, so it happened with Opposition support for the government's measure and a very furious Greens Party about what happened yesterday.
What it means is that asylum seekers, who reach the mainland by boat, will now be able to be sent to the offshore immigration processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, the one on Manus Island. It means any asylum seekers arriving by boat can be transferred.
Up to now, the arrivals by boat on the mainland have had extra legal rights, we're talking here about an extra judicial review of they're circumstances, but this will now change under the laws that have now passed. This is regarded by the government as a deterrence measure and this was recommended last year by a government appointed expert panel. They've been very keen to get all the measures that were recommended through. They haven't got all of them, but yesterday with support from the Coalition, they got an extra one through. You would see this would be mainly because, this was a measure that the Coalition wanted when they were in government, but didn't have the numbers.
It is interesting that Labor didn't support it then, supports it now and here we have this case that anyone arriving by boat, can now have they're cases treated differently to the case before and now be transferred to possibly Nauru or Papua New Guinea.

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