The Age: State surplus not to fill federal budget holes: Napthine. May 20, 2014. Richard Willingham State Political Correspondent
Victoria’s surpluses are earmarked for its multibillion-dollar infrastructure building agenda, not filling holes left by the federal withdrawal of money, Premier Denis Napthine says.
Battling against July 1 federal cuts to agreements on concessions and health funding, Dr Napthine hit national morning television and radio in a series of interviews to keep the pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to rethink budget measures.
Dr Napthine and his counterparts from other states and territories, except Western Australia, met in Sydney on Sunday and called for a meeting with Mr Abbott to discuss the cuts.
Dr Napthine says Victoria will lose $75 million in federal assistance to concession funding, but has vowed no concession holder will lose out. Additional money will be found from the state budget.
Victorian Treasurer Michael O’Brien’s budget, handed down on May 6, showed the state would have an operating surplus of $1.3 billion in 2014-15 growing to $3.3 billion in 2017-18.
Asked on Monday if he would dip into the surplus to help fill federal cuts to health and education, Dr Napthine declared the money was to help build a $27 billion pipeline of projects including the East West Link and Melbourne Rail Link.
”We are fortunate in Victoria that we do have a strong budgetary position, we have a triple-A credit rating, and we do have significant budget surpluses. But those budget surpluses are earmarked for key infrastructure,” Dr Napthine said.
The Premier also disagreed with Mr Abbott, but would not be drawn on whether the Prime Minister had lied about the impact of the budget.
”We have got a clear difference between the Prime Minister saying ‘no impact’ and the state saying ‘significant impact’, now clearly the only way to resolve that, as mature adults, is to sit down around the table and have those discussions to get to the bottom of what is the facts of the matter,” he said.
On the Thursday between the state and federal budgets Mr Abbott joined Dr Napthine’s team for a brief drink in State Parliament. Asked on Monday if the Prime Minister had warned him about the severity of the federal budget, Dr Napthine said Mr Abbott had made it clear publicly it would be a tough budget to clean up the mess left by Labor.
Dr Napthine also backed the need for a Council of Australian Governments meeting, rather than phone calls, as the best way to find a resolution. ”These things are best looked at when you can put the figures on the table,” he said.
Opposition leader Daniel Andrews accused Dr Napthine of false outrage. ”I don’t know that someone who’s presided over the longest waiting list in Victoria’s history has a lot of credibility on health cuts,” he said.