South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill says states and territories will cause the ‘‘maximum amount of political pain possible’’ for the Abbott government unless it reverses $80 billion in budget cuts.
Premiers and chief ministers are demanding an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, saying billions in cuts to health and education funding will have an immediate impact on services.
At a meeting in Sydney on Sunday they rejected the cuts as ‘‘completely unacceptable’’ and claimed hundreds of hospital beds would have to be closed across the country from the beginning of July.
Mr Abbott has so far resisted pressure to reverse the $80 billion in cuts over the next ten years, and has disputed the states are facing any funding emergency.
Mr Weatherill said state and territory leaders would rally voters against the cuts and the Abbott government.
‘‘We can explain to people the depth of these $80 billion cuts, the effect that they’re going to have on people getting quality health care or get a quality education for your children,’’ he told ABC radio on Monday.
‘‘And we’ll cause the maximum amount of political pain possible for federal Liberal government so that they change their mind.’’
The Abbott government is facing a voter backlash over Tuesday’s budget, which hiked the fuel excise, cut welfare, health and education spending, and introduced a new GP co-payment and deficit tax on the wealthy.
Two polls published on Monday showed the coalition had taken a massive hit because of the tough budget, with Newspoll giving the Labor opposition a 10-point ahead and the Fairfax-Nielsen poll a 12 point advantage.
Mr Weatherill said the polls showed voters shared state and territory leaders’ concerns, but doubted they fully understood what impact the $80 billion in cuts would have on services.
‘‘I think people have yet to absorb the fact that $80 billion worth cuts in health and education are coming down the pipe at them,’’ he said.
Mike Baird predicts NSW will lose 300 public hospital beds across the state if the federal budget goes ahead.
He said NSW can’t afford the $2 billion in funding cuts.
‘‘These funds go directly into frontline services, directly into the provision of hospital beds - across the country it’s the equivalent of 1200 hospital beds, 300 beds here in NSW,’’ Mr Baird told ABC radio on Monday.
‘‘We are determined to provide the critical health services we need here in NSW.
‘‘But what we have seen handed to us from Canberra is a long-term trajectory that really puts that at threat - and that’s not acceptable for anyone in NSW,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s not acceptable for Canberra to just allocate and cross-shift that towards the states without any form of engagement or consultation.’’
The long-term consequences of the federal budget implementations are ‘‘unbelievable’’ said Mr Baird.
‘‘These changes start from 1 July this year and that’s going to impact our provision and our ability to provide critical health service and it needs to be sorted out.
‘‘We’re standing up for a position that’s been handed to us from Canberra that is just unsustainable,’’ he said.The NSW premier has put in a request for an urgent COAG meeting before July.