The coalition’s policy war chest is the best ever taken to an Australian election by an opposition, Tony Abbott reckons.
But there’s still scepticism about the party’s costings released two days before voters hit the polls.
Hours after shadow treasurer Joe Hockey’s policy costing announcement revealed a coalition government would deliver $6 billion to the budget bottom line by 2016/17, plus pay down $16 billion of national debt, Mr Abbott was heralding the efforts of his team.
“No opposition has ever gone to an election with a more carefully, comprehensively and thoroughly prepared set of policies,” the opposition leader told reporters on the outskirts of Melbourne on Thursday night.
He said almost 800 pages of coalition policy has been closely scrutinised by three public finance experts, and in many cases, also the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).
But he refused to publish the working papers behind the figures, saying no political party ever does so.
And he defended those key policies that haven’t been processed by the PBO, saying “some policies inevitably were finalised late in the day”.
“I am happy to submit myself and to submit our work to the judgment of the Australian people,” he said.
He was quizzed about projected savings, including the $1.1 billion stemming from stopping asylum seeker vessels.
Coalition calculations assumed that by the end of 2014 the number of people arriving by boat would return to “the long-term average” but Mr Abbott did not say what that was.
He said it would drop further to 50 people per month or less by the end of 2016.
“We think we can do better than that,” Mr Abbott said, adding that they would stop the boats.
“But for the purposes of our costings document and we’ve been very conservative,” he said.
Mr Abbott was asked about his controversial paid parental leave scheme and how the coalition had calculated future receipts on the 1.5 per cent levy imposed on big business to pay for the plan.
“These are issues to do with the ramp up, they’re quite technical,” Mr Abbott said, insisting the scheme is fully costed and fully funded and has faced the scrutiny of the PBO.
Mr Hockey admitted the coalition’s projected $6 billion surplus in 2016/17 was not hugely different to Labor’s $4.2 billion figure for the same year, as shown in the pre-election economic and fiscal outlook.
But the shadow treasurer insists coalition spending will drive growth in the economy.
“We’re turning the direction around from Labor, which is increasing debt and deficit, to ourselves who are starting to pay it off,” Mr Hockey told ABC TV.