Bill Shorten hits back at Treasury head

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has hit back at Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson for suggesting that ''vague notions'' of unfairness associated with the federal budget were unconvincing and amounted to a recipe for continued economic decline.

With approximately $25 billion of savings and new revenue measures in limbo and awaiting parliamentary passage, the Treasury secretary, who is being shown the door himself later this year, had used a speech in Canberra to implicitly criticise Labor and crossbench parties for using the idea of fairness as a reason to block the budget.

Addressing the same ANU conference at which the comments had been made 24 hours earlier, Mr Shorten slammed the suggestion that cuts to pensions and programs for the least well off were in any way vague or notional.

''I think this budget creates inequality and I saw that someone yesterday said that vague notions of fairness didn't do this budget credit,'' Mr Shorten said.

''It is not vague if you are under 30 and have no income for six months, that's real.

''It is not vague if you are working-class parents weighing up whether to send your kid to university and all of a sudden the cost of a science degree triples.''

He said the budget was skewed strongly to hit the bottom 40 per cent of income earners hardest with any impost on the rich being mostly temporary.

''In four years' time, someone earns a quarter of a million tax will not be paying the temporary income levy …

''But if you are on a pension your wage will be decreased,'' he said.

But Mr Shorten said there was one upside to the budget. ''Fairness is now a national political debate in a way which it hasn't been for a while, for years and years I would submit,'' he said.

The government is hopeful of breaking the Senate deadlock for many of its budget measures after the newly configured upper house chamber officially took office from July 1.

However, much of its fiscal repair agenda remains blocked because even the incoming cross-bench senators are hostile.

A planned restoration of twice-yearly federal fuel excise indexation has already been rejected.

Similarly, a plan to introduce a GP co-payment is in trouble as are key pillars of the former government's climate-change architecture and vast savings from welfare tightening.

The story Bill Shorten hits back at Treasury head first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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