Mr Abbott was spending a “very intensive” day of budget meetings on Wednesday in Perth, where he’s been drumming up support for Saturday’s West Australian Senate election re-run.
Treasurer Joe Hockey has described his first budget on May 13 as a “call to arms” where everyone will need to help do the heavy lifting to fix the commonwealth’s finances.
“We are getting the budget back under control,” Mr Abbott told independent Perth radio.
But he said people needed to understand that while the government is going to ensure spending is reined back so it lives within its means, “what we’re interested in is ensuring that the services that people get are maintained and improved”.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the government should “drop the spin” and start being honest about what is being planned in the budget.
Instead of trying to soften up the public, Mr Hockey should be softening up the prime minister to drop his expensive paid parental scheme and a direct action plan that will do nothing to help the environment, Mr Bowen said.
We are getting the budget back under control
Asked whether Labor will support the government’s budget cuts, Mr Bowen said the opposition will look at each on a “case by case basis”.
“A good first start would be to release the commission of audit report so that we can have that discussion,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney.
Chair of the commission, Tony Shepherd, handed over his final report to the government on Monday. The government has had the interim report under wraps since the middle of February.
The coalition rejected Mr Bowen’s suggestion that it was unprecedented for a prime minister to chair a crucial budget meeting of the expenditure review committee.
Mr Hockey will bring down his budget against a mixed economic backdrop where the housing market is trying to fill the gap left by a fading mining investment boom but manufacturing remains under cloud and is not helped by a resurgent Australian dollar.
New data on Wednesday showed that while building approvals fell five per cent in February, they were still a strong 23.2 per cent higher over the year.
“The trend still is very positive in the approvals data and this is translating to firmer activity on the ground,” JP Morgan economist Ben Jarman said in a note to clients.
Other data further indicated signs of a slowly stabilising labour market with private sector job vacancies rising 0.8 per cent in the three months to end-February.
However, the report coincided with BP Australasia announcing the closure of its Bulwer Island refinery that will see staff numbers fall from about 380 to 25.
At the same time, cigarette maker Philip Morris is closing its Australian manufacturing operations at a loss of 180 jobs.