Abbott ‘foolish’ to release costed policies too soon


May 16, 2013 19:03:35

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he has a plan. 

For the past four months he’s taken his Real Solutions document from Queanbeyan to Queensland and virtually everywhere in between.

“Our country is ready for a party with a plan. The Coalition has that plan,” Mr Abbott said after launching the document in January.

The pages are stamped “fully costed-budgeted” throughout.

But so far, only a few of the big-ticket items have been released.

“It would be foolish to release all the costed policies this evening (in the budget reply speech),” said David Gazard, a former adviser to John Howard and Peter Costello.

“The budget has moved deeper and deeper into deficit. 

“They’ll want to see the Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook at the beginning of the campaign to figure out how much room they’ve got on spend. 

“The (Real Solutions) document gives people a feel of what the Coalition stands for… within that framework they’ll keep their powder dry.”

Mr Abbott knows the dangers of releasing detailed policy too soon.

He worked for Opposition Leader John Hewson in 1993 when the unlosable election was lost.

“They thought that Fightback, my policy package, was the longest suicide note in history,” Dr Hewson said.

“I don’t think Tony’s going to repeat that. I think he’ll set the broad parameters (tonight).

“I think it’s probably down in history as don’t ever repeat a Hewson. Don’t put out too much detail, make yourself a small target.”

What we do know?

There are a few costings on the public record.

The Opposition’s broadband plan will cost about $29 billion.

The carbon and mining taxes will be scrapped; according to Tuesday’s budget this could lead approximately to an $18 billion revenue shortfall.

However, the Opposition argues scrapping the taxes will benefit the economy and therefore the budget in the long-run.

Billions of dollars have also been set aside for major road projects such as $1.5 billion for Melbourne’s East West link, $1.5 billion for Sydney’s M4 East project and $1 billion for the Gateway Motorway in Brisbane.

Last election

There are also the policies carried over from the last election and costed three years ago.

They include a generous paid parental leave scheme, which was estimated to cost about $3.4 billion (some estimates put it as high as $5 billion) and funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on big business.

That increase could eventually be offset by tax cuts in order to “keep government small”.

A total of $3.2 billion has also been allocated for the Coalition’s direct action scheme to reduce carbon emissions.

Making ends meet

So, how will the Opposition balance the books?

For every promise, we are told there will be savings.

The Coalition says it can find about $10 billion over the forward estimates by cutting public service jobs, scrapping the School Kids bonus and not increasing the refugee intake.

However, economists say there are not enough details to independently model the Opposition’s plans.

“It’s really hard to work out what it will all cost,” said Ben Phillips from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM).

“Tax cuts are always very expensive though.” 

What do you think?

Should the Opposition release its policy costings now?

Or wait until the campaign?

  • James Glenday is the ABC’s Andrew Olle Scholar for 2013. You can follow him on Twitter @jamesglenday


First posted

May 16, 2013 18:26:59

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