Tony Abbott stands by election costings

Story by theaustralian.com.au

TONY Abbott has brushed off reports of a $800 million hole in his election costings ahead of an expected “grand finale” announcement that the Coalition would deliver a bigger surplus if elected.

Both sides of politics are trading blows in the traditional policy costings debate today with Wayne Swan demanding the Coalition submit all of its policy for independent analysis a week before the election - a benchmark Labor failed to meet at the last election when it submitted several policies just 24 hours before the election.

The Coalition argues Labor has a $3.4 billion black hole in its spending commitments and the Gillard government says the Coalition's costings are riddled with errors.

Claims and counter-claims over the election costings and budget savings are likely to dominate this morning.

The leaked Treasury analysis reportedly reveals that the Coalition would save just $1.6 billion on interest costs if it scrapped Labor's National Broadband Network - not the $2.44 billion it has claimed it will save over the next four years.

“I'd be very sceptical about so-called secret Treasury documents,” Mr Abbott told Triple M radio in Sydney.

“No one's seen this thing and this is coming from a government that couldn't get its mining tax figures right.”

Mr Swan refused to release the Treasury briefing today, although he conceded it was in line with a briefing he had received previously.

While Joe Hockey argued on radio this morning that Treasury also had a habit of getting its forecasts wrong, Mr Swan said it was “always the last resort of a policy-free zone to bag Treasury”.

Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb claims there's a $3.4 billion black hole in Labor's promises.

Mr Abbott yesterday promised to deliver a surplus that was “significantly larger” than the $3.5 billion forecast by Labor for the 2012-13 budget.

But he repeatedly refused to put a figure on what that surplus would be.

Mr Abbott said he would reveal the figure well before polling day, and submit all Coalition policies to Treasury for costing.

The Coalition's economic team was forced yesterday to explain an apparent muddle over its budget numbers, with Mr Hockey putting the party's spending promises at $25.7 billion, while Mr Abbott said its total spending would be less than $18 billion.

Mr Robb later said the apparent $7 billion discrepancy was explained by the treatment of the $10.5 billion mining tax, which Mr Abbott had excluded from his figures.

Mr Abbott also yesterday was forced to fend off questions about how he would pay for a series of major road projects promised by Nationals party leader Warren Truss at the Coalition's campaign launch.

The projects are estimated to carry a price tag of about $40 billion.

Mr Abbott said the cost of all of the road projects promised by Mr Truss would be fully funded by infrastructure program AusLink III.

Speaking on the ABC's Radio National, Mr Hockey also brushed off reports of the $800 million blowout.

“Before every election there's this to and fro about costings,” he told Radio National.

“This is a secret Treasury document the journalist is quoting from,” he said.

“They go and have a secret Treasury analysis. We don't know what the secret Treasury analysis is.”