Conservative 'revolutionary' puts PM on spot as Labor scents blood

By Greg Ansley

Treasurer Joe Hockey. Photo / Getty Images
Treasurer Joe Hockey. Photo / Getty Images

With a former frontbencher and prominent Liberal right-winger calling for a "conservative revolution", Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is heading into heavy seas as the new political year grinds into gear.

Abbott is already bracing for a Labor assault on his cost-cutting programme - much of it targeting the poor - which will deepen as Treasurer Joe Hockey prepares his first Budget, due in May.

Abbott has also come under fire for his social policies, notably the Government's successful High Court challenge to the Australian Capital Territory's same-sex marriage law.

His Government had slipped behind Labor in all major polls by the end of last year.

Liberal backbencher Cory Bernardi, a close associate of the Prime Minister who was forced to quit as Abbott's parliamentary secretary in 2012 after equating gay marriage with acceptance of bestiality, has added new fuel.

In a book published this week, The Conservative Revolution, Bernardi attacks abortion for providing women with "an abhorrent form of birth control" - calling it a "death industry".

He also urges the traditional two-parent family be given clear precedence over others - such as step-families, sole parents, same-sex marriages and families with children born through surrogacy - and condemns euthanasia.

Many Liberals do not share Bernardi's views and Abbott in the past has rejected some of his comments, but a spokesperson for the Prime Minister issued only a brief statement: "Senator Bernardi is a backbencher and his views do not represent the position of the Government".

"He's a confidant of Tony Abbott, and it's up to senior Coalition figures to dissociate themselves, if in fact they disagree with Cory Bernardi," said former Deputy Prime Minister and shadow infrastructure and transport minister Anthony Albanese.

Even without the Bernardi sideshow, Abbott has enough on his plate, with his increasingly controversial domestic programme adding to the international blows he has taken over asylum seekers and spying on neighbours, especially Indonesia and East Timor.

Labor is gearing up for a campaign against the Government's parsimony towards low-income earners and their families, spearheaded before Christmas by the decision to axe pay rises for child- and aged-care workers, some of the nation's lowest paid employees.

Childcare workers were asked to pay back the extra money they had already received.

The Government has also approved a 6.2 per cent increase in private insurance premiums, and is considering charging patients A$6 ($6.48) for visits to GPs that are at present free.

Abbott also intends ending the Schoolkids Bonus for eligible parents with school-age children and is considering proposals to move many disability support pensioners to the Newstart dole payment, cutting incomes by more than A$150 a week.

- NZ Herald

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