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State premiers are demanding an ''emergency'' meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott to discuss an immediate multibillion-dollar shortfall in health and education funding from Canberra and warned they will not be cornered into demanding a rise in the GST.
According to an exclusive Fairfax Nielsen poll of 1400 voters, just 30 per cent of voters support a rise in the GST, while 66 per cent oppose it. Those figures represent a rise in support for the tax since November 2012, when just 12 per cent of voters supported a rise and 86 per cent opposed it.
The debate over the GST came as state leaders warned more than 1000 hospital beds nationally have a cloud over their funding future from July 1 as a result of the federal government's budget axe.
The premiers challenged Mr Abbott's assertion that federal funding cuts would not bite the states until years into the future. West Australian Premier Colin Barnett did not attend the meeting on Sunday.
NSW Premier Mike Baird and Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said their states would be $200 million worse off from the 2014-15 budget year beginning July 1.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said he had rung federal colleagues and ''given a few people an earful''.
''What I'd like is for men and women across Queensland to pick up the phone tomorrow morning, send an email, ring your local LNP member or senator, and let them know that you're concerned about this and ask them to have a really good look at what is going on in the budget,'' he said.
Treasurer Joe Hockey appeared to open the door to a rise in the GST if the states made the case for it, though any change to the consumption tax would be taken to an election. ''What we're saying is we have a tax white paper, a process for looking at tax, we promised the Australian people we would not introduce, increase or widen or broaden or change the GST in this term of government,'' he said.
Mr Newman said the government was passing $80 billion of problems to the states and accused Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey of trying to corner them. ''I have a belief and I think it is shared by the first ministers that the federal government want us to talk about tax increases. Sorry, we are not going there.''
On Monday, Mr Abbott repeated commentsd that the Commonwealth had ''no plans whatsoever to change the GST''.
''Let's see what comes out of the federation white paper process. I have no plans to change the GST, it's up to the states if they want to put that stuff on the table, I don't know if they will, it's really up to them,'' he told ABC radio.
Mr Baird said NSW had been left $2 billion out of pocket over the four-year forward estimates period. He said $80 billion in cuts to health and education nationally over the next decade ''cannot proceed''.
''The cuts that have been put forward by the federal government, we cannot absorb,'' he said. ''We can give no clearer message to Canberra than to say we cannot absorb these cuts.''
Mr Napthine said the government's use of the budget to impose sweeping changes to financial arrangements was not ''the mature and correct way to about it'' and that the proposed $7 Medicare co-payment for GP services would hit emergency departments.
''We need to sort out what is happening from 1 July, because my belief … is that Victoria … will lose about $200 million in funding as of 1 July, through national partnerships being discontinued, through the reduction in funding for concessions, and this will have a direct impact on Victoria,'' he said.
The premiers want a specially convened Council of Australian Governments meeting before July 1 and for a planned white paper on tax reform to be expedited.
A spokeswoman for Mr Abbott dampened hopes of a summit before July 1, saying the Prime Minister had regular meetings with premiers and chief ministers and COAG was due to meet later in the year. ''If there are matters to be raised, they can be raised via the usual channels,'' she said.