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NSW: Turnbull speech empty rhetoric with no solutions, Tanner

14 May 2009 10:15 PM

SYDNEY, May 14 AAP - Malcolm Turnbull's budget in reply speech was marked by empty rhetoric and offered no solutions to reduce government debt, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said.

In his budget-in-reply address on Thursday night, the opposition leader attacked the spiralling levels of debt forecast in the budget and run up by Labor with its "profligate" spending on two economic stimulus packages.

Mr Turnbull also said the opposition would fight plans to cut the private health insurance rebate, but offered a trade-off.

The opposition is offering to replace the forecast $1.9 billion in savings that would come from paring back access to the private health insurance rebate with a 12.5 per cent increase in the tobacco excise - a tax of three cents per cigarette.

Mr Tanner said that despite Mr Turnbull's repeated attacks on the budget deficit, he had not offered no solutions to reduce debt other than suggesting a tax increase.

"Tonight we've had the budget reply speech from Malcolm Turnbull, and the proposals he's put forward in the budget reply would not reduce our deficit or our debt by one cent," he told the ABC's Q&A program.

"The only savings measure that he has put forward ... is a tax increase.

"So for all of their posturing and bluster about these things, not one serious saving, no plan, no strategy to tackle the jobs issue, no strategy to tackle the investing for the future of the nation issue.

"All we had was this empty rhetoric and not one cent off debt or deficit."