Finance Minister Mathias Cormann (left), Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison in Canberra today.

$6bn in federal budget savings agreed

Tuesday, 13 September, 2016 - 15:53

The federal government has secured opposition support to pass one of the most substantial budget packages since the Coalition took office in 2013, making trade-offs on renewable energy funding and welfare payments to pick up about $6 billion in savings.

That number is across the forward estimate period, and only a relatively small figure compared with this year’s deficit, which is forecast to be $37.1 billion.

But it is the largest saving since the abolition of the mining tax and connected spending in 2014, which was worth about $10 billion across the forward estimates.

The ‘omnibus’ savings package includes a range of measures that the Labor Party had included in its pre-election financial forecasts.

There was a series of amendments agreed in order to secure passage, however.

One was to restore $800 million of funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency across the next five years, while another was to deal with planned changes to dental services in separate bill.

The government had previously planned to stop the compensation package, introduced at the time of the carbon tax, from being paid to new welfare recipients like those on unemployment benefits.

Under the new agreement, the supplement will now only be removed for seniors card holders and family tax benefit recipients.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said 20 out of 24 measures he had introduced would make it through parliament unamended, although the government may continue to pursue other matters.

“The government will seek to progress the remaining components of both the energy supplement and family tax benefit savings measures through separate legislation,” he said.

“The government has also agreed to adopt a Labor pre-election savings measure and, as such, will no longer proceed with the 2015-16 mid year economic and financial outlook measure that provided an additional payment of Family Tax Benefit B to families of children under one year of age.

Speaking at a press conference in Canberra, Mr Morrison said the bill was focused on expenditure savings.

“This is not a bill for higher taxes,” he said.

“We believe the way to … get the budget under control is by pursuing savings in the budget.

“Higher taxes for higher spending doesn't arrest the debt, it actually arrests growth.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said there was a challenge to ensure the growing debt burden wasn't passed on to future generations.

"There is more work to be done, a lot more work to be done, but this demonstrates that we are delivering on our economic plan," he said.

"We are delivering on our commitment to bring the budget back into balance and that with goodwill and good faith, working across the aisle we can deliver results in this parliament."