Coalition may back cuts with eye ahead

THE Coalition is likely to pass most of the controversial measures contained in this week's midyear budget update with Liberal MPs arguing it will make their job of balancing the budget easier should they win government.

Publicly yesterday the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, and his senior shadow ministers decried the budget cuts variously as ''vicious and savage'' and an attack on families, but behind the scenes MPs believed most, if not all, of the cuts would be passed.

''We won't fight it because we need the savings as well,'' one of several MPs canvassed by the Herald said. ''We don't want to argue too hard against savings,'' another said.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said if the Coalition blocked a return to the forecast $1.1 billion surplus, it would lessen the opportunity for the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates.

Mr Abbott derailed his own attack on $16.4 billion in cuts and frustrated colleagues when he made what was perceived as a pejorative reference to Julia Gillard's childless status before later offering a heavily qualified apology.

When criticising the $466 million savings measure that would reduce the baby bonus from $5000 to $3000 for the second child and subsequent children, Mr Abbott challenged Labor's assertion that a second child was cheaper because another cot and pram were not needed.

''If the government was a bit more experienced in this area, they wouldn't come out with glib lines like that,'' he said.

The remark, which was reported internationally on news websites, came after Ms Gillard's attack on Mr Abbott as sexist and misogynist, and a day after the latest Herald/Nielsen poll found 42 per cent of voters regarded him as sexist.

Mr Abbott said Labor was ''hyperventilating''.

''If she wants to take offence of course I'm sorry about that. And if she would like me to say sorry, I'm sorry,'' he said.

The most contentious measures in the midyear budget included $1.1 billion in cuts to the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate, the paring back of the baby bonus, and an accounting change that will bring forward $8.3 billion in company tax revenue by requiring the tax to be paid monthly instead of quarterly.

The higher education sector was hit by more than $1 billion, which included the freezing of $500 million in research grants.

Legislation for many of the measures, including the baby bonus and company tax changes, both of which begin in July, will not be needed until next year.

The story Coalition may back cuts with eye ahead first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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