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MPs seek federal budget changes as they head to Canberra

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 25/05/2014 Lisa Cox and Gareth Hutchens
h © Mark Graham/Bloomberg via Getty Images h

Coalition MPs heading to Canberra for tomorrow's first party room meeting since the budget will push for changes to key measures, among them Tony Abbott's signature paid parental leave scheme and scrapping a proposed increase to the pension age.

Said voters in his electorate would not swallow an increase in pension age: Nationals MP Andrew Broad. Said voters in his electorate would not swallow an increase in pension age: Nationals MP Andrew Broad.

As MPs started gathering, they said the government's disastrous budget sales pitch had made it difficult to explain tough measures to voters in their electorates. Senators complained they would not able to voice their concerns in a party room meeting because they would be tied up in Senate estimates.

Complained the senators "do not seem to be consulted": Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald. Complained the senators "do not seem to be consulted": Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald.

Treasurer Joe Hockey signalled yesterday that the government is not for turning on some of its more controversial policies, including the introduction of a GP co-payment. Mr Hockey said the government would not back down on the fee but the actual price could be up for negotiation to push it through the Parliament.

He declared that he and Mr Abbott were ''absolutely committed'' to seeing the government's agenda through, ''because we must''.

MPs have had a difficult week trying to sell tough budget reforms to their electorates.

One said voters had been critical of what they saw as inconsistencies in the government's approach, which on one hand proposed changes to pensions and charging people to see a doctor but on the other hand offered an ''overly generous'' paid parental leave scheme.

''I think it's an overly generous scheme that is hard to justify in the current times,'' the MP said. ''It is currently friendless.''

Nationals MP Andrew Broad said voters in his electorate of Mallee generally accepted the need for some tough decision but would not swallow an increase in the pension age, and the government would have to reconsider.

Other MPs lamented that budget decisions had been poorly communicated and this had made it harder for them to explain the detail in the budget to their constituents. As one backbencher put it: ''We're all part of this communication strategy. It's not an add-on, it's not something you do afterwards, it's an integral part of your budget strategy. That doesn't appear to have been done cleverly or successfully this time.''

Senator Ian Macdonald complained that senators ''do not seem to be as consulted'' and would be left out of tomorrow's party room meeting because of budget estimates. ''There are a couple of things that I'm concerned about that I will raise at the appropriate time with the appropriate quarters,'' he said.

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