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Australian Parliament divided over debt ceiling

November 12, 2013

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s government faces stiff resistance in Parliament to increasing the country’s public debt ceiling by a whopping two-thirds to 500 billion Australian dollars ($467 billion). Opposition parties are refusing to support the plan.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday that a bill to increase the current AU$300 billion limit will go to Parliament the following day. The government warns that the ceiling will be exceeded next month and wants the legislation passed this week.

But the main opposition Labor Party said it would only support an increase to AU$400 billion unless the government provided new economic evidence that that would be inadequate. The minor Greens party rejected the government’s proposal and offered no compromise.

Abbott’s conservative coalition government, which won lower house elections in September, does not hold a majority in the Senate and would need the support of Labor or the Greens to pass the legislation.

Labor’s leader Bill Shorten accused the government of avoiding scrutiny of its spending policies.

“What they didn’t win in the election is the right to run up debt like a drunken sailor and simply to just say: trust us,” Shorten told reporters.

Abbott said the latest Treasury forecast was that debt would peak “significantly in excess of AU$400 billion.” He blamed overspending by the previous Labor government for Australia’s deteriorating balance sheet.

“The only way we can absolutely be confident that Labor’s debt legacy has been finally put in the past is by doing it this way,” said Abbott, referring to his proposed AU$200 billion hike in the debt limit.

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