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Morrison Govt to squeeze public service for billions

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison will order “well paid” public servant bosses to make $2.7 billion in cuts to help the government claw back savings, but insists money won’t be slashed from essential services. InDaily’s Stephanie Richards reports from the election campaign trail.

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At a press conference near Darwin in the marginal seat of Lingiari on Tuesday, Morrison said a re-elected Coalition government would seek to cut $2.7 billion from a departmental expenditure budget of $327.3 billion.

Asked which departments or agencies would be targeted, Morrison said the cuts wouldn’t affect programs or services, but instead would target accommodation and administration bills.

“If our senior public servants – and they’re paid well – if they can’t find $2.7 billion out of a budget of $327.3 billion, well, I’ve got a lot more confidence that they can achieve that,” he said.

“This is a sensible practical measure, which is, I think, responsibly being applied to ensure that you responsibly manage your expenditure.”

Morrison said he respected public servants and trusted them to make “sensible decisions” about how they could cut funding.

“They (public servants) understand that respect and expect – that’s always been my chatter with the public service that I’ve always led,” he said.

“That means they will make those sensitive decisions about the best way to achieve that.”

Morrison said that under a re-elected Coalition government the ABC would not be asked to cut funding and that its budget would instead increase.

The Coalition’s costings – released on Tuesday – show an improvement to the federal budget bottom line of about $1 billion over four years, compared to the March budget.

That will be achieved by lifting the efficiency dividend applied to government departments and agencies by 0.5 percentage points to 2 per cent.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said $2.3 billion had been committed for 35 policies. They include more seniors having access to the health concession card, reducing the co-payments for taxpayer-subsidised medicines and a new policy to support first home buyers into the property market by allowing them to access their superannuation.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham promised essential services would not be cut to make the savings.

“The opportunities for departments … exist in relation to management of their accommodation, technology, consultancies and contractors, their staffing arrangements,” Birmingham said in Melbourne.

“These in no way impact the delivery of services and support to Australians. Essential services remain guaranteed under the Coalition.”

Frydenberg took aim at the opposition for not yet releasing its policy costings, calling on leader Anthony Albanese to “fess up”.

But Labor, which is expected to release its policy costings by Thursday, has rejected the government’s criticism.

Australians would know the details before election day, campaign spokeswoman Penny Wong said.

“We’re doing what oppositions, including Mr Morrison’s party, have done for many elections, so there’s nothing unusual about this,” she said.

On Tuesday morning, the Prime Minister visited a housing display village near Palmerston, just south of Darwin, to continue spruiking the Coalition’s policy to allow first-home buyers to dip into their superannuation to save up for a deposit.

The housing development is in the seat of Lingiari, which the Coalition hopes to wrest back from Labor from its 5.5 per cent margin.

He then travelled to the neighbouring seat of Solomon, also held by Labor on a 3.1 per cent margin, to visit the Palmerston 50+ Club at a community hall.

Albanese began Tuesday in Perth, where he channelled Australian Labor luminaries and promised to be a prime minister for Western Australia – much like former leaders John Curtin and Bob Hawke.

“When I refer to Hawke and Curtin, it’s not an act of nostalgia, but a reminder of what can be done when you come to the table with courage, vision and ambition,”Albanese said.

“A reminder that good government can create profound and lasting change that improves lives. A reminder that with a better government, we can build a better future.”

– with AAP

This story first appeared in The New Daily

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