You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Budget repair 'spit in the ocean': Hewson

AAP logoAAP 17/09/2016 Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent

As the federal government boasts about its most successful parliamentary week since Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister a year ago, two old hands from either side of the political divide have brought some perspective to what has actually been achieved.

Former Labor MP and minister Craig Emerson believes the government has achieved "nothing more" than a down payment on budget repair, or as former Liberal leader John Hewson prefers to describe it - a mere "spit in the ocean".

But Attorney-General George Brandis says it was a "great week" when the government has had a $6.3 billion savings bill passed by the parliament, managed to secure compromise superannuation reforms within the coalition and tabled its controversial same-sex marriage plebiscite legislation.

"Those three issues, all of which dealt with so well this week, tells us ... the byword of the 45th parliament is compromise," Senator Brandis told Sky News.

Furthermore, while Mr Turnbull has only been in the top job for a year, Senator Brandis thinks he has the potential to be up there with Robert Menzies and John Howard, who both had poor initial stints as leader of their party only to return as the longest and second longest serving prime ministers.

"I believe Malcolm Turnbull has it in him to do that," Senator Brandis says.

"I think he has learned a lot of lessons from the very, very bruising experience of politics at the highest level."

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told ABC television it is Opposition Leader Bill Shorten who has "real problems" after the resignation of frontbencher Sam Dastyari after getting a Chinese business to pay a bill for him.

Another Labor shadow minister, Stephen Conroy, also unexpectedly retired last week.

Labor's leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, dismissed suggestions the opposition is in disarray, saying it is Mr Turnbull who is being steered by his back bench, and in particular Liberal-National MP George Christensen, over super forms, the backpacker tax and the same-sex marriage plebiscite.

"Who is running things? It appears to be George, not Malcolm," Senator Wong told ABC television.

In the case of both the super and $6.3 billion omnibus legislation, Dr Hewson says it is only the beginning in repairing the budget.

"It is a very small spit in the ocean compared to the magnitude of the task," Dr Hewson told Sky News.

He says cumulative deficits since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis are bigger than the cumulative deficits of the last two recessions in Australia.

"They will wake up one morning and the credit rating will be downgraded," he warned.

While Dr Emerson doesn't have any inside knowledge, he believes the opposition will accept the superannuation changes announced last week.

"In the spirit they deployed in the omnibus savings bill, you would expect they would pass this legislation," Dr Emerson told the same program.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon