Premiers Rebel Over Federal Budget Cuts; Demand COAG Meeting Before July 1

The States have rebelled over Federal Government Budget cuts, claiming that the impact will be felt on July 1, and demanding Prime Minister Tony Abbott convene a COAG meeting before then.

Newman

The State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers met in Sydney today at a meeting called by the Queensland LNP Premier, Campbell Newman. The Western Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, was the only leader not to attend.

Newman said the meeting “firmly and unequivocally rejected” the Budget cuts. The political leaders demanded an urgent meeting of the Council of Australia Governments before July 1. Newman said: “Contrary to what the PM said today, there are immediate impacts to frontline services.”

He said the $180 million cut to hospitals would be felt immediately with about 1200 sub-acute beds being cut in hospitals. “There was a national partnership on preventative health – we all received letters saying that is terminated.”

Newman rejected the suggestion that the cuts are designed to put pressure on the states to agree to an increase in the Goods and Services Tax. “This is not a conversation about increasing taxes,” Newman said. He urged voters to “pick up the phone” and contact their senators to protest.

The NSW Liberal Premier, Mike Baird, said: “Hundreds of NSW hospital beds will be affected… We cannot afford the problems that have been handed to us by Canberra… We can give no clearer message to Canberra than to say we cannot absorb these cuts.”

Napthine

The Victorian Liberal Premier, Denis Napthine said there will be impacts as of July 1. “The longer term impacts will be even more severe,” he said.

The South Australian Labor Premier, Jay Weatherill, said the cuts meant the equivalent of closing one hospital from July. “The Commonwealth decided to push something across the table. We are pushing it right back to them.”

The Tasmanian Liberal Premier, Will Hodgman, said the cuts were “untenable” and “unsustainable”. He said $27 million, or 59 hospital beds, would be coming out of the Tasmanian health budget this year. “I understand the extent of the Budget crisis they have inherited… but I’m committed to ensuring Tasmanians have access to good health and education, and not disadvantaged by unilateral decisions made in Canberra. The conversation needs to start and it needs to start now.”

The Northern Territory CLP Chief Minister, Adam Giles, said he was being asked to close hospital beds in 43 days. The ACT Labor Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, said Canberra was savaged in last Tuesday night’s Budget, with 6500 jobs to be lost.

“March in May” protests took place around Australia today in protest against the Budget decisions.

  • Listen to the First Ministers’ press conference (35m)

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  • Listen to Qld Premier Campbell Newman on budget cuts (5m)

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  • Watch the press conference (35m)
  • Listen to Victorian Premier Denis Napthine on budget cuts (5m)

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  • Listen to NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson (5m)

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  • Watch an ABC report on protests (2m)
  • Watch Greens MP Adam Bandt speak at a protest rally (8m)

Statement from the Council for the Australian Federation.

COMMUNIQUE

The unilateral termination of intergovernmental funding agreements, signed in good faith, is unacceptable.

The cuts to funding for States and Territories, and the manner in which they were imposed, will cause immediate and significant impacts on the hospital system and permanent structural deterioration in the recurrent funding positions of State and Territory Governments.

With this in mind, CAF:

  1. Expresses grave concern that, contrary to the Prime Minister’s remarks today, there are immediate impacts on frontline services and the cost of living for Australian. For example, from 1 July 2014, there will be a reduction in funding for 1200 hospital beds across Australia and the withdrawal of over $300 million per year from concessions for pensioners and seniors.
  2. Rejects the proposed $80 billion cuts to health and education, highlighting the massive impact on frontline services for all Australians and the significant impact on the fiscal sustainability of all the States and Territories.
  3. Calls for an urgent COAG meeting to address these concerns before 1 July.
  4. Agrees that the White Papers on the reform of the Federation must be accelerated and progressed as a true partnership with the States and Territories.
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