The Federal Government faces a radical overhaul of its Budget as crossbench senators strengthen their opposition to key contentious proposals.
As Tony Abbott called on independent MPs to put up their own proposals, one of them - Clive Palmer - said there was not one good measure in the Budget that was easy to support.
Treasurer Joe Hockey has been in talks with crossbench senators over the past fortnight, looking for support for a suite of measures including the $7 Medicare co-payment, an increase in fuel tax excise and an overhaul of university funding. Without Senate support, the Government faces a blowout of at least $42 billion over the forward estimates period.
Mr Palmer, who held talks with Treasury officials yesterday, said the Government still had a bit of "head scratching" to do.
Declaring the Medicare co-payment as unacceptable and arguing a rise in the fuel excise would hit poor people, Mr Palmer signalled Palmer United Party senators would not sign up to Budget measures any time soon.
"The Budget as we see it is unfair to all Australians," he said.
"It doesn't provide for the opportunities for growth.
"We've had no agreement between ourselves and the Government as to what we will support going into the Senate in the next couple of weeks."
Instead of Mr Hockey pressing the public case for the Budget yesterday, the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann all pushed its merits.
Mr Abbott said the Government would not sell out the Budget's "fundamentals" but it was open to proposals for sensible change.
"What I say to all of the crossbench senators is, if you don't like what the Government is putting up, give us your alternative in terms of how we save money," he told Macquarie radio.
Mr Abbott said Labor was using its role in the Senate to block the Budget, adding the ALP was still in denial about its election loss.
But shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the ALP would stick by its own fundamental positions in dealing with the Budget.
He said the Budget was not winning support in Parliament or across the general public because it was flawed at its core.
'The Budget as we see it is unfair to all Australians.'"Palmer United Party's
- Clive Palmer *