24 May-2014, Guardian Australia/Australian Associated Press: Tony Abbott has raised the prospect of a double dissolution election as he insisted his unpopular budget would pass through Australia’s parliament but admitted compromises with other parties might be needed.
Senior government ministers had signalled compromising on key budget reforms such as higher education interest rates and the GP co-payment amidst a fierce public backlash and hostility in the Senate.
The education minister, Christopher Pyne, who faced a slew of student protests during the week over university deregulation, signalled concessions on some reforms. He said it was in recognition the government did not have a majority in the upper house.
“We will, of course, seek to consult and negotiate with the minor parties and the crossbenches to ensure these important reforms are delivered,” Pyne said.
Last week Abbott appeared to back away from a threat to hold a double dissolution election after earlier signalling that incoming Senate cross-benchers would be unlikely to keep their seats if there was an election.
But on Saturday he said he would not surrender his budget and there was an “iron necessity” for sticking with difficult and unpopular measures. “We are not going to surrender our budget commitments,” he said.
Compromises were inevitable, though, he said. “You have got to negotiate your legislation through the parliament.”
Abbott said he was confident the government would get the budget through the Senate in the end, because the alternative would be a double dissolution election.
“Because let’s face it, there have been many governments over many years that have had to negotiate budgets through the Senate.
“The only time that wasn’t successfully done … that was a different bill in 1975.”
Labor, the Greens and the Palmer United party had vowed to block changes such as the GP co-payment and pension cuts.
Pyne said the university sector was being consulted to “refine the details” of the changes to higher education, with two education groups providing feedback.