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Cormann challenges Labor to help budget

AAP logoAAP 22/08/2016

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has challenged Bill Shorten to back the government's proposed $6.5 billion in budget savings, saying this should be the "absolute minimum starting position".

Senator Cormann said these were the same measures Labor backed during the campaign and the time for election game-playing was over.

He said Labor's attitude to budget repair mattered as once again the government lacked the numbers to pass disputed legislation through the Senate.

In an address to the Sydney Institute, he said Mr Shorten's failure to embrace a credible fiscal strategy hurt him during the election campaign.

"Will Bill Shorten step up to the plate on budget repair in this Parliament," he said.

"Or will he be like jelly on that plate - the Wibble Wobble Wibble Wobble Jelly on a Plate, first opposing, then supporting, then not knowing what to do."

Senator Cormann said the government should be able to accept as read the bi-partisan pre-election commitment to implement $6.5 billion in savings.

"In fact that should only be the absolute minimum starting position," he said.

He urged Labor to work with the government to restore necessary fiscal foundations for stronger growth, higher living standards and stronger sustainably funded public services.

Senator Cormann said Australia's debt position still compared favourably with most other developed economies.

But unless spending and related debt growth trajectories left by Labor were further improved, Australia would be increasingly exposed to unacceptable risk.

Senator Cormann said more than 800 policy decisions on spending since 2013 had already produced a $221 billion net improvement in the budget out to 2026-27, with $26 billion net savings in the current forward estimates and a further $195 billion from 2020-21 to 2026-27.

"If we had not made the decisions we have made over the past three years, to reduce spending growth, our debt position would be increasing by about an additional $221 billion over the next decade," he said.

Senator Cormann said return to surplus of around 0.2 per cent of GDP, was projected for 2020-21, with the budget remaining in surplus to 2026-27.

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