The federal government is seeking to convince pensioners of the budget’s benefits, but Labor says misleading information is being spread.
The Abbott government is planning to send out almost 2.5 million newsletters to win over pensioners on controversial budget measures.
But Labor, which has taken a solid lead in the polls on the back of budget unrest, has criticised the campaign as misleading.
The News for Seniors newsletter – which was also produced under Labor – will include information on age pension payments, the change of indexation from 2017, the rise in the pension age and the introduction of the Medicare GP co-payment.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told parliament the government would be wasting taxpayer money if it went ahead with the newsletter.
“Does the prime minister seriously expect the people of Australia to believe him when he said this is an honest budget?” he said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said any letter that went to pensioners would only include truthful information, unlike that being peddled by Labor.
He pointed to a newsletter from Mr Shorten which said the carbon tax would be abolished under Labor.
“He is a serial deceiver of the Australian people,” Mr Abbott said.
Labor frontbencher Stephen Jones told parliament the Liberal MP for the NSW seat of Hume, Angus Taylor, had issued a newsletter stating: “The GP co-payment will not apply to those who cannot afford to pay.”
“PM, why are you, your MPs and ministers continuing to tell falsehoods about the budget?” Mr Jones asked.
Mr Abbott said the co-payment “should hardly hurt at all”, but would make the health system sustainable.
The prime minister and Treasurer Joe Hockey described the budget as facing a “crisis” if Labor did not back budget-related bills.
Labor and the Greens on Wednesday rejected for a second time a government bill abolishing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation funded by the carbon tax.
Under the constitution, the government can use the rejection to trigger the dissolution of both houses of parliament and call an election.
Mr Hockey said the government would bring the carbon tax repeal bills back to parliament next week.
Greens leader Christine Milne challenged the government to bring on an election.
“If you are so convinced that ignoring climate change is the way to go, go to an election on it,” she said.
The prime minister also moved to head off an internal battle over his paid parental leave scheme.
Mr Abbott is under fire from some coalition colleagues who want to make the leave scheme less generous or delay it until the economy improves.
“There’s quite a lot of time to put legislation in parliament,” he said, adding the government’s immediate priority was to repeal the carbon and mining taxes and legislate the budget.