THE federal coalition says Labor’s economic credibility is in tatters over the claim of a $10 billion hole in opposition costings.
But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says voters are still in the dark, a week out from polling day, about what jobs, benefits and services will be cut by a possible Abbott government.
The heads of Treasury and Finance and the Parliamentary Budget Officer took the unprecedented step on Thursday night to clarify their role in identifying the “black hole”.
“At no stage prior to the caretaker period has either department costed opposition policies,” the two department secretaries said.
The secretaries and the PBO pointed out that different costing assumptions would “inevitably” result in different financial outcomes.
Treasurer Chris Bowen said on Friday he had used “the best publicly available information about opposition policies” to conduct Labor’s assessment, which found a $10 billion error in the coalition’s $31.6 billion in savings.
Labor found fault with the savings the coalition expects from shedding 12,000 public servants, ending the low income superannuation contribution and from abolishing the carbon tax.
Mr Hockey said the government officials’ intervention proved voters could not trust Labor to manage the budget.
“What they’ve done is they’ve blown an absolute hole in Kevin Rudd and Chris Bowen’s credibility and honesty,” Mr Hockey said.
Mr Rudd on Friday accused the media of failing to properly hold Mr Abbott to account.
“There is one fraud being committed on the Australian people here and that is being collectively supported by a range of people not providing any scrutiny,” he said.
The Labor leader appeared to have at least one media outlet on side. The prestigious Economist magazine said Mr Rudd “just about” deserves another turn, but the choice of leaders “frankly, is not great”.
The magazine said Mr Abbott had failed to properly explain how he would pay for his $22 billion parental leave scheme, and his promise to turn back the boats appeared to be his only foreign policy.
Mr Rudd also had a crack at Mr Abbott’s foreign policy credentials, arguing the Liberal leader was not “comfortable or experienced” in dealing with matters such as the Syrian crisis.
Mr Abbott accused the prime minister of exaggerating Australia’s role in dealing with the crisis.
The opposition leader unveiled a mental health policy in Melbourne and $100 million for a plan to bring more Asian students to Australia and boost Australian students learning in Asia.
Mr Rudd was in Perth to announce he would appoint a minister for cities, to deal with issues such as traffic congestion and new industries.
The prime minister will speak at Labor’s official launch in his home city of Brisbane on Sunday, ahead of the final week of the campaign. – AAP