Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has paved the way for another multi-billion budget disaster at the next election, insisting today that he will keep Coalition policy costings hidden from independent scrutiny, and rejecting the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) that the Liberals agreed to five months ago.
Mr Hockey has also reminded the Australian people of his leader's economic incompetence, foreshadowing more disunity and confusion in economic policy if the Coalition is elected.
Following recent revelations of a $70 billion budget crater, Mr Hockey told Sky Agenda today that he would refuse any independent scrutiny of the Coalition's alternative budget.
Kelly: And you will have [policy costings] done by the private sector?
Hockey: That's right.
After the last election, Treasury found an $11 billion black hole in the private sector costings that Mr Hockey presented to the Australian people, with unanswered questions still surrounding that so-called audit.
Mr Hockey has now abandoned the Coalition's previous support for the PBO agreed on by the Joint Select Committee, which included several senior Coalition shadow ministers.
The PBO will provide greater policy-making assistance and resources to Opposition parties than ever before.
For the first time ever, all Members and Senators will have access to an independent and confidential costing service outside of a general election period. They will also be able to use a fully transparent policy costing service during election periods.
The PBO – which will ensure that the Australian community is better informed about the fiscal impacts of policy proposals - implements the unanimous recommendations of the Joint Select Committee.
It will prevent a repeat of the $11 billion costings con-job that Mr Hockey delivered at the last election by refusing to submit Coalition policies for costing under the Charter of Budget Honesty put in place by Peter Costello.
Since then Mr Hockey has presided over a new $70 billion crater in the Liberals' budget which has sparked confusion and division in the Liberals' economic team.
Mr Hockey first raised this budget crater himself, telling the Sunrise program he was looking at a budget shortfall of "50, 60 or 70 billion”. (12 August 2011).
Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb has since confirmed that $70 billion shortfall on multiple occasions:
"The $70 billion is an estimate of the sort of challenge that we will have."
(ABC NewsRadio, 16 August 2011)
"No, it's not a furphy. We came out with the figure, right?"
(Meet The Press, 4 September 2011)
Mr Hockey is now seeking to deny and disown his own $70 billion budget crater, and keep it secret from the Australian public by abandoning his previous support for the PBO.
Hewitt: Are you happy to re-commit to that $70 billion in savings today?
Hockey: It is not a figure that I used.
This is exactly the type of economic confusion and disunity that Mr Hockey foreshadowed this morning:
Hockey: I am sure there will be tensions, healthy tensions, between, if the people elect us, between Joe Hockey as Treasurer and Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.
Mr Hockey's admission of disunity reflects a Coalition whose only economic policy under Mr Abbott is to wreck everything, talk the economy down and spend without regard to budget impacts.
The Government will continue to pursue the PBO agreed on with the Liberals as part of its commitment to sound economic management that has kept Australia's economic fundamentals strong.
18 September 2011