No transport details in Abbott budget reply

Transport operators will need to wait to learn what plans Tony Abbott has for the industry

By Brad Gardner | May 14, 2010

Opposition leader Tony Abbott ignored transport in his budget reply speech, but his vow to scrap a mining tax will scupper government plans for small business tax breaks.

During his speech, Abbott did not respond to the Budget’s $1 billion investment in the rail network, the plan for an intermodal terminal at Moorebank in NSW or $4.2 billion for road funding including rest areas.

He says opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey will use his speech next Wednesday at the National Press Club to announce plans to reduce government spending and improve productivity.

"The final costing and funding details of Coalition policy will be released nearer the election but all policies will be fully costed and fully funded…," Abbott says.

He says he will not support the 40 percent tax on mining profits, which will be used to fund a 2 percent drop in the small business company tax rate to 28 percent, simpler depreciation allowances and a 3 percent rise in superannuation to 12 percent.

Abbott claims the tax will lead to higher costs in building materials and energy prices and jeopardise jobs and mining projects.

"Let me make this clear: the Coalition will oppose the mining tax in opposition and we will rescind it in government," Abbott says.

He also plans to scrap unfair dismissal laws for small businesses and focus heavily on workplace agreements.

"We’ll make Labor’s transitional employment agreements less transitional and Labor’s individual flexibility agreements more flexible," Abbott says.

While claiming the previous government’s workplace reforms went too far—including removing unfair dismissal protections — Abbott credited them for creating 2 million jobs, lifting wages and doubling household wealth from 1996 to 2007.

WorkChoices was abolished by the Rudd Government in favour of Fair Work Australia.

While not mentioning specifics, Abbott says his government will deny funding "even to good causes" to reduce debt and deficit.

Abbott says his goal will be returning the Budget to surplus by 2012-13, matching the Rudd Government’s pledge.

To do so, Abbott says he will restructure the school stimulus funding project and turn his back on the national broadband network. He did not say how the Coalition will improve internet services.

An Abbott-led government will also run a two year recruitment freeze in the public service sector.

He claims this will save about $4 billion over the forward estimates.

"There will be no redundancies but for two years 6,000 bureaucrats who retire or resign each year will not be replaced," Abbott says.

However, the freeze will not apply to the federal police, customs and quarantine, defence forces and Centrelink.

Abbott says he will also reject an increase to Rudd’s renewable energy fund and will cut government advertising by 25 percent.

The savings, Abbott says, will fund the Coalition’s climate change policies and the private health insurance rebate.

While criticising a tax on the mining industry, Abbott will impose a tax on businesses to fund a paid parental leave scheme for women at full pay for six months.

He says the Coalition will impose "a modest levy" on taxable income over $5 million a year.

"Parental leave is a workplace entitlement not a welfare one. It should be paid for by business but not in way which could lead to discrimination against female staff or hurt small business," Abbott says.

He says the scheme will give women the opportunity to combine work and family and ensure there is an income to pay household costs.

"And it’s good for the economy which won’t lose some of the best workers because they can’t do justice both to their jobs and to their families," Abbott says.

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