Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen is not sure Joe Hockey will deliver another budget, let alone deliver one with a surplus.
But the Treasurer is confident he is not about to lose his job, after being given a vote of confidence by Prime Minister Tony Abbott for the third day in a row.
Cabinet colleague Malcolm Turnbull also rejected reports he had been approached to take over as treasurer, dismissing it as a bit of “fantasy football”.
“I’m not in trouble,” Mr Hockey insisted on Wednesday.
His performance has been questioned after his first budget was poorly received and, after nine months, some of its measures remain stuck in the Senate.
He is standing firm, saying the government knew the budget would be unpopular but was right for the country.
He denied reports the budget faced a $56 billion black hole, but warned the country would never live within its means if government spending was not reduced.
Everyone needed to make a contribution, Mr Hockey said.
“If I could pull down from heaven a magic solution that fixes the budget … I would do it,” he said.
Mr Bowen seized on the comments, suggesting they were at odds with Mr Abbott’s vow not to pick budget fights he could not win in the Senate.
It was another example of the “chaos and dysfunction” within the government, he said.
“Joe Hockey will never deliver a budget surplus. He may never deliver another budget,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Canberra.
Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer said Mr Hockey should be sacked, saying the treasurer knew nothing about economics and was foolish to think he could get unpopular budget measures through the Senate.
Despite the blast, Mr Abbott said he was willing to consider Mr Palmer’s idea of a national economic summit, especially as it would force Labor to release its economic plan.
Mr Bowen said a summit would be a good idea if the government took a constructive approach, rather than using it to make “cheap political points”.
He also promised Labor would unveil detailed policies in “the coming period” and before the Thursday before election day.
Meanwhile, Mr Hockey continued to promote a promised 1.5 per cent tax cut for small businesses, saying it would encourage start-up companies that might become big employers.
“I want to see the next Google … come from Australia,” he said.