Government to reveal new budget savings as Scott Morrison, Bill Shorten battle for votes


The election campaign enters its final three days with Labor promising to deliver budget surpluses that are $17 billion bigger than the government over the next four years when compared to the forecasts in the April 2 budget.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will respond on Thursday with a plan to fund all the Coalition’s election commitments and leave the budget no worse off.

Josh Frydenberg will reveal new budget savings.Credit:AAP

Without a significant turnaround in its budget numbers, the Coalition goes to the election promising combined surpluses of $45 billion over the four years to June 2023 while Labor forecasts $62 billion over the same period.

Both major parties are assuring voters they can deliver a budget surplus next financial year, with the Coalition forecasting $7.1 billion while Labor estimates $7.4 billion.

Mr Morrison will use his speech to the National Press Club on Thursday to repeat his campaign refrain that “now is not the time to turn back” and emphasise his record on economic management.

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“Now is the time to get on and keep on with the work of building our economy by backing in the choices Australians are wanting to make every day, and to enable them to plan for their future with confidence,” he says in draft notes from the speech.

“Labor are proposing a big taxing, big spending agenda, once again at a time when Australians can least afford the bill that they will be forced to pay, not just over the next three years, but at least the next decade.

“This week is about focussing Australians on that choice and the price of that choice.”

In a sign of the frenetic pace at the end of the campaign, Mr Morrison travelled from the electorate of Bass in regional Tasmania to Indi in northern Victoria before flying on to Sydney, where he met the Chinese community in Chinatown.

Mr Shorten began the day in Perth, where he visited a technical college in the electorate of Pearce, a sign of Labor’s ambition to win the seat from Liberal incumbent Christian Porter, before flying to Sydney ahead of his speech on Thursday.

In a nod to Labor history, Mr Shorten will make the last major speech of his campaign at Bowman Hall in Blacktown, where Gough Whitlam delivered the “It’s Time” policy speech at the beginning of the 1972 election campaign.

Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison face off at the last leaders' debate.

Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison face off at the last leaders’ debate.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Shorten will argue the “door stands ajar” for a new generation at this election, just as it did for Labor supporters in 1972.

The Opposition Leader will continue his campaign against the “chaos” resulting from the divisions within the Liberals and its preference deal with mining magnate Clive Palmer and his United Australia Party.

The Coalition’s spending promises during the campaign have included a $308.6 million expansion in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, a $36.4 million increase in the Farm Household Allowance, a $50 million manufacturing modernisation fund and dozens of other commitments.

Labor has warned that spending cuts may be used to fund the promises and has challenged the government to “come clean” on its budget plan.

As well as the spending promises, the government has pledged another $1.2 billion for a freight link in Perth and $4 billion for the East West Link in Melbourne, but has kept these “off the books” to avoid weakening its surpluses.

The East West Link is treated as a “contingent liability” and will only become an expense with a hit to the surplus if Victorian Labor state premier Daniel Andrews agrees to the project, an unlikely prospect.

David Crowe is Chief Political Correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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