A CABINET minister has warned the Government will be forced to close hospitals, scrap the ABC and be left with an ineffective military in just five years if it cannot fix the Budget.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce made the dire prediction as he compared the Budget impasse to a deadly skin cancer that could not be ignored.
Mr Joyce said he understood why people had “concerns” about some Budget measures but insisted they were all needed to repair the nation’s finances.
“We either accept that we’ve got a debt problem and we’ve got to turn it around or we basically say ‘no, this is only a small melanoma on our arm and if we just wait long enough, it’ll go away’. No, as a financial melanoma, it will kill you,” Mr Joyce said.
“If we don’t turn it around, then that is just basically being completely and utterly irresponsible because in five or 10 or 15 years time, the chickens will come home to roost and we’ll be closing down hospitals, we won’t have an ABC, we won’t be able to defend ourselves because we will have run out of money.”
Mr Joyce’s comments came a day after Finance Minister Mathias Cormann raised the prospect of tax hikes and Education Minister Christopher Pyne mooted research funding cuts if Budget savings did not pass.
It will again try to pass key Budget measures in the next fortnight including planned Medicare co-payments, welfare cuts and an overhaul of university funding.
Despite negotiations with crossbenchers over the five-week winter parliamentary recess, the Government looks set to face further roadblocks.
Ministers will continue to negotiate changes to key measures, including possible lower caps on co-payments for doctor visits and prescriptions.
The Government will again try to strike a deal to scrap a range of spending tied to the mining tax, including the School Kids Bonus.
Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie said her party would not agree to cutting the School Kids Bonus and called on the Government to overhaul the proposals.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon predicted it would take some time for the Government to secure support.
Other crossbench Senators including Family First’s Bob Day, the Liberal Democrat’s David Leyonhjelm and PUP’s Glenn Lazarus criticised ministers for suggesting tax hikes could be on the agenda if the Budget savings do not pass.