Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says an accounting of Labor’s “spend-o-meter” shows the Coalition is being outspent 20-to-1 so far in the July 2 election campaign – a claim that seemed to unravel under questioning.
As Labor leader Bill Shorten’s mantra of “putting people first” seemed to be gathering political momentum, Mr Turnbull, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann mounted a coordinated attack on the opposition’s fiscal credibility on Tuesday.
With Labor promising to restore Coalition cuts to health and education and to “unfreeze” GP rebates, Mr Shorten is gaining popular support.
On Tuesday he was characterised by Mr Turnbull as “Billion Dollar Bill”.
“The real issue is the flagrant wastefulness and recklessness of the Labor Party outspending us by 20 to 1 in this campaign.”
In a rhetorical countermeasure, Mr Shorten accused Mr Turnbull of “a great big fat lie” over Labor’s fiscal calculations.
Mr Morrison and Mr Cormann unveiled a graphic showing Labor’s “black hole” had now accumulated to $67 billion based on a compilation of spending promises assessed by the two ministers.
“Bill Shorten needs to explain how he is going to pay for his $67 billion black hole, how he is going to make up that gap,” Senator Cormann said.
But under Canberra press gallery questioning over his assumptions, Mr Morrison said the $67 billion was a “worst case” scenario with $32 billion being “best case”.
The joint press conference was called a “political backfire” and a “black hole within a black hole” in prime time TV reporting of the day’s campaigning.
The Coalition ministers say Labor’s unfunded spending commitments would grow to $200 billion over the next decade.
Labor’s Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen rejected the black hole figures as “fantasy”.
Labor’s spending is said to be covered by its negative gearing reforms and the indefinite maintenance of the Coalition’s 2 per cent short term tax levy on income above $180,000.
Peris, Palmer out. Hanson in?
Labor’s Northern Territory senator Nova Peris is leaving politics.
Installed four years ago by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard through a ‘captain’s pick’ at the expense of a sitting senator, Senator Peris said she had never envisaged politics as a career.
Her resignation followed reports that she approached the AFL for a position.
The Labor Party has yet to announce its NT senate ticket with Senator Peris promising to support whomever is pre-selected by the party.
The decision followed an announcement by Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer that he would not seek his party’s pre-selection for its Senate ticket. Mr Palmer had already announced he would not recontest his House of Representatives seat of Fairfax in Queensland. It appears Mr Palmer’s political career is over.
Meanwhile in Queensland there is a real prospect of the return to the Senate of Pauline Hanson who will be registered as Pauline Hanson’s One Nation on the senate ballot paper.
In a forensic analysis on his ABC blog, psephologist Antony Green said Ms Hanson would be competitive in Queensland’s last of 12 senate seats in this double dissolution election, where a candidate’s required quota was only 7.7 per cent.
Quentin Dempster is political editor of The New Daily. He has more than 40 years’ experience in print and television (The Sun Herald,The Sydney Morning Herald, ABC TV) and is the author of three critically acclaimed books and a documentary on institutionalised corruption. He also has a Walkley Award and an Order of Australia for an ‘outstanding contribution to journalism’.