Abbott cautious on surplus promise
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CANBERRA, Jan 28 AAP
January 28 2013, 11:18AM
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey denies the coalition has abandoned its surplus promise but his leader Tony Abbott says there are no guarantees until the budget position is revealed ahead of the federal election.
A policy booklet released by Mr Abbott at a pre-election campaign rally in Sydney on Sunday commits the coalition to getting "the budget back under control", without mentioning a specific timetable.
Previously, the opposition had said it would deliver a surplus in its first year in office.
Mr Hockey stuck to that pledge on Monday.
"Our commitment is emphatic," he told ABC radio.
"Based on the numbers published today we will deliver a surplus in our first year and every year after that."
However, Mr Abbott - who on Monday was visiting Queensland to view flood recovery efforts - was more cautious.
"We've got to see their (government) figures before we can tell you exactly what we'll do," he told Seven Network.
"But I tell you what ... the fiscal position will always be better under the coalition."
Finance Minister Penny Wong said the coalition was treating voters with disdain by not revealing "the true costs" of its policies.
"You can't deliver (the) promises Tony Abbott keeps making as he tries to make himself look more positive without also engaging in savage cuts to health and to education," she told ABC radio.
One area which appears to be safe from any coalition policy initiatives is superannuation.
"We will ensure that no more negative unexpected changes occur to the superannuation system," its Real Solutions booklet says.
"We won't move the goalposts."
The coalition booklet is marked with the words "costed - fully budgeted" throughout, although there is no further detail.
Mr Hockey said the coalition had been doing policy costing work for the last three years and that "all will be revealed well before the next election".
"We've been using a range of different sources but ultimately we rely on the government numbers," he said.
"The government numbers keep changing.
"Therefore, until we get to the weeks before the election when the pre-election fiscal outlook is released ... we don't know what the real state of the budget is."
Senator Wong said the changes to the budget numbers reflected the state of the economy, which is being impacted by global factors.
"If the opposition say that they're able to govern, they also have to deal with this," she said.
"They have access to more resources when it comes to costing their policies than any opposition previously in Australia's history."
In December, Mr Hockey said he had submitted at least 40 policies to the independent Parliamentary Budget Office.
The federal election is due between August and November.
By Katina Curtis