Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended the prospect of his government introducing a deficit levy in next week's federal budget, arguing that "in the long run" voters will thank the Coalition for taking strict measures to reduce debt levels.
Following a weekend poll that found more than 70 per cent of surveyed voters think a deficit levy would be a broken promise - given Mr Abbott's pre-election pledge of no new taxes - the Prime Minister has argued that the "most fundamental commitment" the Coalition made was to "get Labor's debt and deficit under control".
As the government heads into its final week of preparations for the May 13 budget, Mr Abbott conceded on Monday that people would be disappointed next Tuesday.
"No one likes difficult decisions. Governments don't like difficult decisions ... but you’ve just got to make hard decisions at a time like this, otherwise our country is doomed to years of economic stagnation and I think in the long run, the voters will thank us for doing what is absolutely necessary," he said on Channel Nine's Today program.
Senior ministers will finalise the proposed levy this week at a time when a Galaxy Poll found Labor clearly in front of the Coalition, 52 to 48 per cent, two-party-preferred, and found 72 per cent of voters believed a deficit levy would be a broken promise.
The Australian Financial Review reports that opinions are divided in the government about the political wisdom and fiscal necessity of the proposed tax, which is understood to involve a temporary hit on high-income earners.
Mr Abbott did not confirm that there would be a new tax on Monday, saying he would not comment on the "detail" of the budget.
But he again stressed that the budget would be difficult.
"In the end, we're all in this together."
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten seized on Mr Abbott's remark while talking to reporters in Adelaide on Monday afternoon.
"Tony Abbott has said today that Australians should be thanking him for these problems. For the extra pressure on families, the extra taxes, the extra fears which pensioners now have. Prime Minister, Australians will not be thanking you for your broken promises," Mr Shorten said.
"No Prime Minister ever before [Mr Abbott] in Australian history has so brazenly, so shamelessly, so quickly started breaking election promises."
Mr Abbott's steadfast approach came after Education Minister Christopher Pyne brushed aside the notion the Coalition would be breaking an election promise if it introduced a deficit levy in the upcoming budget.
Responding to a Galaxy Poll results, Mr Pyne said on Sunday that the budget needed to be “right for the country”.
When asked if a debt levy was “Tony Abbott’s ‘Julia Gillard moment'” – given her broken pledge there would be no carbon tax under her government – Mr Pyne replied firmly, “no, it’s not”.
“As a politician of 21 years standing, I think I know the Australian public pretty well and I think they full understand that we are going to have to make the tough decisions necessary [to fix the economy].”
The Galaxy Poll showed that Labor’s primary vote remained unchanged – at 37 per cent – since a similar poll a month ago. The Greens’ primary vote has improved slightly from 10 per cent to 11 per cent, while Palmer United has moved from four per cent to 6 per cent.
The poll was taken between April 30 and May 1 and results are based on the opinions of 1391 voters.