Treasurer Joe Hockey admits some of his coalition colleagues aren’t too happy with budget cuts, but he won’t be deterred.
Cabinet ministers came to Mr Hockey’s defence on Friday as media reports suggest Prime Minister Tony Abbott is facing pressure to dump his treasurer in a reshuffle.
Mr Abbott himself flagged a pre-election reshuffle on Thursday night.
Mr Hockey has been asking ministers, before the release of the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook this month, to dig deep and find extra savings in their departments to balance the budget books.
“We’re working on MYEFO and these are the sorts of discussions I’m having with colleagues about how they will help deliver savings,” Mr Hockey said.
“Some of them aren’t too happy, but we’ve got to do what’s right for the nation.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the issue wasn’t “which deck chair you shift on the Titanic”.
“No amount of sacking the salesman changes an unfair budget into a good idea,” he said.
Former treasurer Wayne Swan said it was no wonder Mr Hockey’s colleagues were hunting him.
He said Mr Hockey had talked down the economy, driven up the jobless rate, handed the Reserve Bank $8.8 billion it didn’t need and killed the car industry.
Mr Abbott said he rated his treasurer “very highly indeed”.
“And the public should too, because the treasurer … particularly when you’ve just had six years of chaos and scandalous fiscal mismanagement, has probably the hardest job in the country,” Mr Abbott said.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who – along with Malcolm Turnbull – has been the subject of speculation as a possible future treasurer, said he wanted to work with Mr Hockey to repair the “ugly, filthy mess” left by Labor.
“This is a team game, politics, and you win together,” Mr Morrison said.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said Mr Hockey was working tirelessly and effectively to build a stronger economy and repair the budget.
Polls show majority public opposition to budget measures including the GP co-payment, deregulation of universities and the fuel tax hike, seven months after the budget was delivered.
Defence Minister David Johnston has come under fire on issues ranging from whether he trusts the government’s submarine builder to the cost of his dinners.
But Mr Abbott continues to back him.
“He’s doing a good job and he deserves my confidence, which he absolutely has.”
There are also reports of tension between Mr Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who expressed her anger to him over being shadowed by Trade Minister Andrew Robb at a climate summit in Peru next week.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb said he would be visiting Brazil, Peru and Chile on a seven-day trade and investment mission.
As part of this, he would join Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the UN climate conference in Lima.
“Over the past decade, Australia’s trade and investment relationship with South America has increased significantly,” he said in a statement.