Peter Costello is heralded by the Liberal Party as the greatest treasurer of all time.
Except when it comes to his thoughts on the federal government’s $7 GP co-payment, that is.
Treasurer Joe Hockey has dismissed as “not good advice” his Liberal predecessor’s thoughts on giving up on the initiative.
Mr Costello has called on Mr Hockey to “reboot the whole argument” on the budget and dump measures unlikely to pass the Senate.
But Mr Hockey insists the co-payment is a key part of the government’s economic action strategy that puts a price signal on visits to the doctor, ensuring Medicare is sustainable in the long term.
He says it is not unusual to have major policies held up in the Senate, citing the passage of the GST during Mr Costello’s stewardship of the budget and economy.
“I think people are getting a little ahead of themselves,” Mr Hockey said on Monday.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten questioned from whom the treasurer was taking advice if he was so openly dismissing it from a Liberal stalwart.
“Who does Joe Hockey listen to other than the person in the mirror?” he said.
Labor also hit out at the treasurer’s pledge to use an appropriation bill to bypass the Senate over his $5 billion asset-recycling plan, saying advice from the Parliamentary Library suggested such a move would fail.
The scheme aims to reward states and territories that privatise existing assets and use the proceeds to fund new economic-enhancing infrastructure.
Mr Hockey is surprised Labor and the Greens are so determined to block more than $40 billion of new infrastructure that would create thousands of jobs at a time of rising unemployment.
But his door is always open to “sensible senators” who are prepared to present an alternative budget plan.
Some have done so and their proposals are now being analysed.