What a difference a year makes.
Last year’s budget spelled doom, gloom and a “debt and deficit disaster”, but this year a more optimistic Treasurer Joe Hockey told Australians to “look at the glass half full”.
Political journalists saw through the spin and grilled Mr Hockey, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Prime Minister Tony Abbott in brutal post-budget interviews that revealed a government under pressure.
Lateline’s Emma Alberici was scathing as she cut through Mr Comann’s “nonsense” figures on Labor spending, asking him how much longer the government would continue to “trot” them out.
Leigh Sales didn’t let the Treasurer off the hook on 7.30 either, with Mr Hockey becoming visibly frustrated as she questioned his competence and asking her to stop interrupting his answers on numerous occasions.
On the Today Show, Karl Stefanovic suggested Mr Abbott owed the women of Australia an apology for back-tracking on the paid parental leave scheme.
While questions abound about how revenue will be raised, there is little doubt that “have a go” is the Abbott government’s new catch-cry.
Leigh Sales v Joe Hockey, ABC’s 7.30
Leigh Sales came out swinging as soon as the besieged Treasurer sat down, just minutes after delivering the budget.
Probing him about whether he was trying to save his own skin, Sales also questioned Mr Hockey’s competence.
Sales’ first question post-budget was brutally to the point: “Is this what political retreat looks like?”
For the next 10 minutes, Mr Hockey was forced to defend himself against a barrage of accusations of hand-outs, back flips and missteps. It wasn’t long before he became visibly frustrated.
“You have back flipped on numerous plans and dropped talk of a debt and deficit emergency and you have relied on excuses from which you had a go at Wayne Swan,” Sales said.
“Do you think that the voters are confused about what your government stands for and about your competence?”
But the Treasurer stood his ground.
“No, they are probably confused about what you are saying,” he said, visibly flustered after asking Sales several times to let him finish.
“We laid the foundations at the last budget and we have started to implement it.
“The plan is well under way. We have faced incredible head winds. The iron ore price has more than halved.”
Emma Alberici vs Mathias Cormann, ABC’s Lateline
Later on Lateline, Emma Alberici lashed Finance Minister Mathias Cormann over his comments about Labor debt and a budget emergency, telling him they were “nonsense”.
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“When Labor announced a deficit of $18 billion you called it a budget emergency, so what do you call a deficit that’s about double that at $35 billion?” Alberici asked.
When Mr Cormann called Labor’s figure of $18 billion “a lie”, Alberici saw her opportunity and began a masterful cross-examination.
“If $18 billion is a budget emergency, Mathias Cormann, what’s $35 billion?”
“When you thought it was the truth it was a budget emergency?”
The Finance Minister stood firm.
“In years five, six and beyond they had hidden expenditure that we knew wasn’t affordable and Labor was taking Australia to a debt of $667 billion within the decade.”
Alberici was having none of it.
“With respect, that is a nonsense figure that you continue to trot out that you made up yourselves. In the PEFO (Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook) figure, which is the one you really should be referring to, it was about $370 billion,” she said.
“No, it is not a Labor argument Mathias Cormann, the $667 billion was a figure that you created.”
Karl Stefanovic vs Tony Abbott, Network Nine’s Today Show
Television funnyman Karl Stefanovic continues to make waves with his political interviews, and Tony Abbott’s post-budget appearance on the Today Show was no exception.
In the brief interview, Stefanovic told Mr Abbott his spending was “astronomical”, his “rosier” budget was “a tough one to take” and his believability was “a big problem”.
“The difficult thing here is for people to stomach the transition, to analyse the transition from last year to this year,” Stefanovic began.
“The message last year to this year is rosier and more bright. It’s a tough one to take.”
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Abbott talked about tough decisions, cutting taxes, and mentioned his new catch-cry “have a go” no less than four times.
After telling Mr Abbott his believability was his “biggest problem at the moment”, Stefanovic suggested the Coalition leader owed an apology to the women of Australia.
“PM, you’ll have to go to the next election having broken a significant election promise, which is to the women of Australia. You promised them the world and you’ve delivered nothing for them.”
“It’s a hell of a turnaround from what you promised … you probably owe them an apology don’t you?”
Mr Abbott said he was a “big believer in paid parental leave” but had “copped quite a lot of flack” over the issue.
“I’ve listened, I’ve learned and I’ve acted because the message that came back to me loud and clear from right across Australia was if we had to prioritise, it’s childcare,” he said.