The Greek parliament has passed a sweeping package of austerity measures including pension cuts after a marathon debate. Paul Chapman reports.
The Greek parliament began debating on a sweeping omnibus bill of austerity measures on Friday. In the small hours of Saturday it was finally passed...a step down a long road of reform, the price of the nation's 86 billion euro bailout. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras chided the three opposition parties for backing the bailout but going against the bill. (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) GREEK PRIME MINISTER ALEXIS TSIPRAS SAYING: "There are no new measures. There are difficult measures, we already knew that. You knew, we knew, we've all known about them since August and the truth is, my colleagues from New Democracy, Potami, and Pasok, you knew about them when you were voting with us in favour of the bailout deal of August 13th." The package includes pension cuts, raising the retirement age, tougher punishments for tax evasion, and liberalising the energy market. European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and euro zone rescue fund inspectors are expected in Athens at the end of October. They'll be assessing progress on the country's third international bailout. The main opposition New Democracy says the government's reforms are still unbalanced. (SOUNDBITE)(English) KRYIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, NEW DEMOCRACY PARTY PARLIAMENTARY SPOKESMAN, SAYING: "Unfortunately it's implementing the wrong policy mix, focussing again on increasing taxes rather cutting spending." The Greek Labour Minister admits the measures are tough but says growth is still very much part of the plan. (SOUNDBITE)(English) LABOUR MINISTER GEORGE KATROUGALOS SAYING: "It's certainly harsh, certainly there are many neo-liberal elements within this programme and exactly for this reason we must balance them with development and growth measures and also with measures that are going to have a socially sensitive direction." The bill's reforms are only a first step and the government's facing major resistance to change in a country worn down by six years of recession and austerity.