The fallout from this year’s budget has taken an interesting turn, with colourful billionaire Clive Palmer announcing he will challenge Tony Abbott for the nation’s top job if Abbott was to call a double dissolution election.
Palmer’s announcement comes just hours after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten used his budget reply speech to dare the Prime Minister to make good on his promise to call a double dissolution election if the government’s key budget measures are blocked.
This is not the first time Palmer has said he wants to be prime minister and it’s not likely he would succeed—he would need many more members of his Palmer United Party elected to the House of Representatives to form a government.
Palmer said in a statement his party would rally its members and run candidates in every lower house electorate to fight against the government’s “harsh and cruel” budget measures.
“Our membership has grown dramatically since the budget was handed down,” said Palmer. “Australians clearly see the Prime Minister’s platform and we are sure people will not want to vote Liberal.”
“We have seen that this government lies to Australians and we haven’t seen Labor offer an alternative solution. A Palmer United Party government would stimulate and expand our economy,” he said.
SmartCompany attempted to contact Palmer’s spokesperson but did not receive a response before deadline.
The opposition said earlier this week it would block the government’s proposals to re-introduce the indexation of the fuel excise, change the pension age and introduce a Medicare co-payment.
Shorten added to this list last night, pledging to vote against changes to higher education, co-payments for subsidised pharmaceuticals and the Family Tax Benefit B, as well as the government’s proposal to force unemployed people under 30 to wait six months to receive unemployment benefits.
Shorten said the budget was built on “systemic and wilful lies”. “If you want an election, try us,” said Shorten to the Prime Minister. “If you think we are too weak—bring it on.”
“This budget divides our parliament [and] more importantly, it will divide our nation,” said Shorten. “This is just the beginning, turning Australia into a place most of us won’t recognise—a colder, meaner, narrower place.”
Shorten highlighted the impact the budget will have on cost of living, saying all Australian families will find it harder to make ends meet if the budget measures are introduced.
He also took issue with the government’s apparent strategy of trying to force the states’ hands when it comes to the GST by pulling $80 billion out of hospital and school funding.
“The Treasurer and the Prime Minister are blackmailing the states with unconscionable cuts to turn them into the Commonwealth’s cat’s paw—a Trojan horse to a bigger GST but absolving the Abbott government of fingerprints or blame,” he said.
Greens leader Christine Milne also used her budget reply to take a stand against many of the budget measures, telling the Prime Minister her party “couldn’t be more passionate or more committed to kicking your mob out”.