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Fed: Early election on the table, Rudd hints

Fri Sep 11 01:08:29 EST 2009
Thu Sep 10 15:08:29 UTC 2009

MELBOURNE, Sept 10 AAP - A double dissolution may be on the cards if the federal opposition does not pass its health insurance reforms, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has hinted.

The legislation, which would allow the government to means test private health insurance rebates for singles earning more than $75,000 a year and couples earning $150,000 a year, was defeated in the Senate on Wednesday night.

If the legislation is defeated again in the Senate before the end of the year, the government will have the trigger for an early election.

Speaking on the ABC's 7.30 Report on Thursday, Mr Rudd said a double dissolution was possible.

"My own instincts have always been for a government to serve out its full term," Mr Rudd said.

"I don't believe the Australian people like a government going to elections early. I also have a responsibility for the proper, prudent financial management of Australia."

Mr Rudd said the legislation would save the government more than $9 billion and was crucial to government's plan to return the budget to surplus after the world financial crisis.

"Therefore, these are serious matters I'm not taking lightly. I say again, this legislation will be back in the Senate by year's end."

Earlier on Thursday, Health Minister Nicola Roxon denied the government was pushing for an early poll by reintroducing the legislation later in the year.

"We're not ... trying to set up those triggers, it's the Senate that are handing us those opportunities," she told ABC Radio.

"Our interest is actually in getting the change introduced."

But the coalition says the changes deserved to be knocked back because Labor promised before the last election not to change the rebate.

"We did not sign up to a democracy that just rubber stamps every wish of this government," opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey told ABC TV.

"We're keeping (Prime Minister Kevin) Rudd to his election promise."

Ms Roxon denied Labor was spoiling for an early double-dissolution election on health."