Australians cannot trust the Gillard government to manage the economy or to tell the truth, according to the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott.
Speaking at a joint press conference with shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, Abbott said the government’s retreat on the budget surplus was another betrayal of a fundamental promise.
Abbott said the government had been behaving as if the surplus “wasn’t something that might happen, it was something that had happened.” The government has no economic strategy, just a political strategy, he said. “You can’t trust them to manage the economy or to tell the truth.”
Abbott claimed that in the 2010 election campaign Gillard had made a budget surplus pledge the day after she promised not to introduce a carbon tax. “They’ve been talking of a surplus for three years.”
“We will pursue this government every single day for its failure until the election,” Abbott said.
Hockey said the government had set its own benchmark. “There was no qualification on a surplus in 2012-13.”
Hockey said that in 2008 the government said they had a temporary deficit and now Swan says he has a temporary shortfall in revenue. “The bottom line is they can’t hold back the waste.” Hockey instanced the BER, computers in schools and “$900 cheques to dead people” as evidence that “it’s not in their DNA to ever live within their means.”
The government is “taking out the garbage five minutes before Christmas,” Hockey said. “We’re upset about this… we won’t forget the solemn promises… this is the most incompetent government Australia has ever had… they deserve every bit of criticism they get.”
Hockey also said the government’s revenue shortfall is because “they promised a mining tax which has hardly raised a dollar.”
A competent government would not be in this situation, Abbott said, claiming the Howard government delivered a 2004-05 budget surplus of 1.5% of GDP with terms of trade 40% lover than now. He said government spending is now around $100 billion extra per year. “They don’t have a revenue problem, they have a spending problem.”
Asked how he would cut spending, Abbott referred to an earlier promise to save $1.3 billion on refugee spending. He said there would be a surplus in every year of an incoming coalition government.
Abbott said: “This is a government acting like a tenant, trashing the house before it gets evicted.”
Listen to Abbott and Hockey at their press conference (17m)
Watch Abbott and Hockey (9m)