The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

18 May 2008

NO.057

Turnbull Leaves Liberals' Economic Credibility on Life Support

Malcolm Turnbull has left the Liberal's economic credibility on life support this morning, admitting he has not costed the Liberals' policies, declaring he will not nominate any savings to offset the Liberals' uncosted policies, and defending his $22 billion raid on the Budget surplus.

Oakes: But just those two items alone add up to something like $8 billion in lost fuel excise and GST, $3 billion for the alcopop tax. That's a massive amount of money. You can't just say, "Oh, we'll look later and see if we can find how to pay for it."

Turnbull: Well it is a massive amount of money. But what we're saying is that if we are in government, Laurie, and we're not, and we can't be in government until the next election, so we're not going to be in government for several years at the very least. If we were in government or going into government, we would have that fully costed.

Responsible economic management of Australia's $1 trillion economy requires careful and rigorous costing of all alternative policies, not simply hoping that the Budget will add up if elected.

That is why Labor has provided rigorous costings of its policies in both government and opposition, including the $10 billion of savings identified prior to last year's election.

Mr Turnbull has also dealt his economic credibility another major blow – and opened up another major split with Dr Nelson – by declaring that he will not identify savings while in Opposition to offset the Liberals' growing spending proposals.

Oakes: Will you say where the savings would be?

Turnbull: No, because we're not in government, Laurie. It is the same, the Labor Party did the same thing when they were in Opposition. We get presented with the Budget papers, we get just like you, we get three or four hours to read them. We come up with some concrete suggestions but what we're saying is as a matter of principle, when we go to the next election, we will have a proposal to cut the fuel excise and we will fund that out of savings elsewhere.

Oakes: But I recall Peter Costello at every Budget time, demanding that the then Opposition cost its promises, say where the money is coming from, and on occasions Labor tried to do that. You've made no attempt. There is not a single suggestion in Dr Nelson's speech of a saving.

Turnbull: No, that's true. There is no suggestion of a saving there, that's right, and it is simply because, as Dr Nelson has said, we are in Opposition. If we are in government, we will find savings.

Mr Turnbull's comments also clearly contradict Dr Nelson's commitment on the Insidersprogram this morning that the Coalition will tell the Australian people where it will make budget cuts to fund its petrol excise policy.

Cassidy: So let me be clear on this then – you will come up with savings? You will spell out precisely where you will make up the difference?

Nelson: We will make it absolutely clear, Barrie, what our budgetary forecast is. We'll make it absolutely clear where this $1.8 billion will be coming from.

And in a final blow to the Liberal's economic credibility, Mr Turnbull has defended his $22 billion raid on the Budget surplus, despite claiming all week that the Budget does not make enough savings to tackle inflation.

Oakes: But in the meantime, you're prepared to have a big hole punched in the surplus?

Turnbull: Look Laurie, it is not a question of a hole. I mean when you talking about holes in Budgets, you're talking about Budgets going into deficit. This Budget is solidly in surplus.

The Rudd Government has found substantial savings and built a strong surplus of 1.8 per cent of GDP to allow for vital future investments in Australia's productive capacity and help tackle the inflation challenge we face now.

If Mr Turnbull had any understanding of the inflation challenge we face now, he would nominate savings to offset his spending and help to tackle that inflation challenge now.

Instead, Mr Turnbull's $22 billion raid on the surplus shows he is prepared to make any sacrifice of the Liberals' economic credibility for the sake of his own political ambitions.

18 May 2008