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Libs' budget surplus: promise or intent?

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CANBERRA, Jan 29 AAP

January 29 2013, 10:20AM

Liberal frontbencher George Brandis has played down differences in the language among senior coalition figures on the topic of a budget surplus in the first year of an Abbott-led government.

On Sunday, the coalition released a campaign blueprint which dumped references to a timeframe on getting the budget back to surplus.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey kept the door open on the promise on Monday, saying, "Based on the numbers published today we will deliver a surplus in our first year and every year after that".

But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has been more cautious, saying he wants to see what state the books are in before committing.

Liberal frontbencher George Brandis said the coalition "intends" to deliver a budget surplus in the first year of government.

Asked about the difference in words, Senator Brandis said, "I don't know, probably because Joe Hockey and I went to different schools".

He told Sky News it was not a fruitful exercise to put word choices under the microscope to "find the last tiny nuance of meaning".