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No "coherent" plan: Weatherill widens rift with Shorten

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Premier Jay Weatherill has intensified his rift with his federal Labor colleagues, saying they haven’t presented a coherent plan to fund their education and health promises.

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Weatherill has been at odds with federal Labor since last year, when he put forward a proposal to reshape federal-state funding arrangements via an increase in the GST rate to 15 per cent.

This week the debate sharpened, with South Australian Labor MP Nick Champion suggesting Weatherill should be forced to fall into line behind Labor policy which opposes an increase in the GST rate.

Labor leader Bill Shorten yesterday announced a major set-piece in his attempt to win government this year – a multi-billion-dollar commitment to fully fund the Gonski agreements Labor struck with state and territory governments in 2013.

Speaking to 891 ABC radio this morning, Weatherill said the federal Liberals and his Labor colleagues in Canberra weren’t admitting to the “bleeding obvious” – that Australia has a revenue problem.

He said Shorten’s Gonski promise was welcome, but he hadn’t revealed a “coherent or sustainable” way to fund it as well as the growing health needs of the nation.

“We’ve got the Treasurer, Mr Morrison, running round misleading people into suggesting that there isn’t a revenue problem, all we’ve got is some spending problem – if we just nipped and tucked some of our spending everything would be okay,” Weatherill said.

“So that’s utterly misleading. On the other side of the debate, we have a federal Labor party which is saying some very good things and important things about maintaining its commitment to Gonski and providing support for the health care system but we haven’t seen any coherent or sustainable way in which that’s going to be funded.”

He said he had “great confidence that they’ll be able to come up with a solution”, but urged concrete funding proposals.

“It’s not beyond human capacity to design a taxation system which meets the needs of our citizens and that is the debate that I’m seeking to have in this nation.

“Rather than everyone running around pretending, I want to see concrete proposals, not blaming the states about the fact that they’re over-spending on their health and education systems…”

For his part, Shorten appears to be trying to take some of the heat out of the issue, talking down the prospect of binding state leaders to oppose changes to the GST.

“I don’t think we need to ban people or have an iron-clad position,” Shorten told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

The position was echoed by Labor’s federal education spokesperson Kate Ellis.

The Adelaide MP said she was not a supporter of “muzzling debate and trying to silence people”.

However, she strongly supported Champion’s staunch opposition to a GST increase.

“I will join with Nick, as will every single one of my federal Labor colleagues, to say that we absolutely oppose an increase in the GST,” Ellis told FIVEaa.

“That is our position now, it will be our position at the election and the Australian public will have a clear choice.”

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