THE federal opposition has rounded on the cuts contained in yesterday's midyear budget review but stopped short of vowing to block them in Parliament, saying it would reserve its decision.
With the opposition undecided, the measures face an uncertain passage. The Greens are hostile to many of the cuts and key independents such as Rob Oakeshott are unconvinced of their necessity.
"None of the $4 billion in savings is part of any supply agreement, so I will judge each piece of legislation on its merits when it comes to the Parliament," Mr Oakeshott said.
"While I accept the broad Treasury strategy of returning to surplus, I have many questions about the Treasurer's desire to do it in just 12 months.''
The most contentious cuts were those to the baby bonus, university funding and the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate, all worth a combined $2.5 billion.
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said families would suffer so that the government could achieve a political target of returning the budget to surplus.
''Wayne Swan is hurting families' budgets so he can patch up the government's budget,'' he said. But asked what measures, if any, the Coalition would try to block when the legislation came before Parliament, Mr Abbott was noncommittal.
''Our fundamental commitment is to get the economy on a path of sustainable growth and
to return the budget to sustainable surpluses. We will be making our decisions about these specific measures in the light of that fundamental commitment.''
The largest savings measure was an accounting change requiring corporations to pay company tax monthly instead of quarterly. This measure brings forward company tax payments from subsequent years. It gives the government an extra $5.5 billion in 2013-14 and $8.3 billion over the forward estimates.
While business's tax bill will not increase, the sector was unhappy because of the increase in compliance costs and cash flow problems.
''Business has to do the heavy lifting once again,'' said the director of economics and industry policy at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Greg Evans.
''Once again we are seeing business is firmly in the government's firing line when it comes to helping out the budget bottom line,'' he said. ''This is going to have a negative impact on our competitiveness.''