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Hockey dodgets details -

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At the National Press Club Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey announced a headline figure of $46 billion
in savings but left it to another shadow minister to release the detail back at Parliament House
later in the day - thereby avoiding detailed questioning on potentially unpopular budget cuts,
before a live television audience.

At the National Press Club Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey announced a headline figure of $46 billion
in savings but left it to another shadow minister to release the detail back at Parliament House
later in the day - thereby avoiding detailed questioning on potentially unpopular budget cuts,
before a live television audience.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Political journalists turned out at the National Press Club today to get
some detail of the big spending cuts Tony Abbott had promised to deliver to the Government's Budget
if he wins the election this year.

In the his post Budget speech in Parliament last week Mr Abbott said Shadow Minister Joe Hockey
would have a lot of detail to release in his Press Club speech today. Instead Mr Hockey announced a
headline figure of $46 billion in savings and left it to another Shadow Minister to release the
detail back at Parliament House later in the day thereby, avoiding detailed questioning on
potentially unpopular Budget cuts before a live television audience.

Instead his speech focussed on broad brush policy areas like productivity and competition and, what
you might call, the vision thing.

I'll be talking with Joe Hockey shortly before this live television audience but first this report
from political Heather Ewart.

JOE HOCKEY, SHADOW TREASURER: Someone's got to fund the debt.

HEATHER EWART: It was supposed to be the Shadow Treasurer's big day when he'd seek to prove his
credentials to manage the economy.

JOE HOCKEY: When you believe in what you're saying it's easy to give these speeches.

HEATHER EWART: Star billing for Joe Hockey at the National Press Club.

JOE HOCKEY: Here we go.

HEATHER EWART: Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had given it a very big build up last week after the
Government brought down its Budget.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: Next Wednesday at the National Press Club the Shadow Treasurer will
announce further measures to reduce spending and to increase productivity including a detailed
response to the new spending and new savings proposals in the Budget.

JOE HOCKEY: This document that I am releasing today...

HEATHER EWART: But, when it came, it amounted to a very big letdown. Apparently the detail would
come after the speech from another front bencher.

JOE HOCKEY: Today my colleague, Andrew Robb, the Shadow Minister for Finance is releasing a
detailed statement outlining the savings measures the Coalition is taking so far to get the Budget
back to surplus as quickly as possible.

The combined four year recurrent and capital savings amount to $46.7 billion.

HEATHER EWART: So, let's make this very clear, Joe Hockey would not be producing any figures, the
media would have no costing documents as he presented his speech which gave a broad outline of
policy goals, they wouldn't even have copies of the speech itself, at a forum where media scrutiny
and questioning of politicians is par for the course.

PRESS CLUB MEMBER 1: Why haven't you, as Tony Abbott promised you would last week, outlined the
cuts that you're proposing to make?

PRESS CLUB MEMBER 2: Tony Abbott actually said last week that you would be announcing detailed, a
detailed response to the new spending and new savings proposals in the Budget, why didn't you do
that?

PRESS CLUB MEMBER 3: I must say I think it's pretty poor form to say you've got $47 billion in
savings and not show us them before we ask questions.

JOE HOCKEY: OK, I'm sorry if you think it's poor form that you haven't got a list of all the
savings at this exact moment but I tell you what, before you walk out the door you'll have them.

PRESS CLUB MEMBER 1: Is this the sort of thing that you most criticise in the Rudd Government, a
sort of blatant media manipulation and reverse spin?

JOE HOCKEY: No.

HEATHER EWART: Whether it was a cynical attempt to manipulate the media or sheer stupidity and
disorganisation, the end result is the same. Joe Hockey's day to shine had turned into something
else all together.

Not helped either by questions like this in the wake of his leader's statement to this program on
Monday that what Tony Abbott says in the heat of the moment can't always be believed as a
commitment.

PRESS CLUB MEMBER 4: Can you guarantee that interest rates will not rise under the Coalition and
could I have that answer in writing so I know it's the gospel truth?

JOE HOCKEY: Interest rates will always be lower under the Coalition because we are prepared to run
surplus Budgets.

HEATHER EWART: From now on Opposition front benchers will be exposed to repeated questions like
this on truthfulness courtesy of Tony Abbott's confession.

Outside the Press Club things weren't improving either.

JOE HOCKEY: You can ask any question you want.

JOURNALIST: You've gotta be kidding, we just got it. You just put a bowl of soup in our lap after
you'd spoken, after you'd taken questions.

JOE HOCKEY: Yeah, well I don't, I want, I want you to focus on the rest of the policy and not just
savings.

JOURNALIST: So you don't want us to focus on the savings?

JOE HOCKEY: I want you coming at everything, everything.

JOURNALIST: Your leader was in the House of Representatives, he said Joe Hockey is going to release
the details.

JOE HOCKEY: There it is, there it is.

JOURNALIST: He's misled the Parliament.

JOE HOCKEY: Oh, no. Come on.

JOURNALIST: It's laughable isn't it, it's risible.

JOE HOCKEY: It's all there.

HEATHER EWART: Back inside finance spokesman, Andrew Robb, was left to pick up the pieces.
Belatedly handing out costings he'd expand on at a news conference later.

He offered this defence of Joe Hockey's approach today.

ANDREW ROBB, OPPOSITION FINANCE SPOKESMAN: Joe felt that, you know, if he put a document out with
all the numbers that was the end of the rest of his speech no one, and we would be, we would be
hearing in a week, or even tomorrow, there's no vision, you know, there's no framework.

HEATHER EWART: Joe Hockey wanted to talk the big picture and long term reform aimed at improving
productivity and market efficiencies such as

JOE HOCKEY: Accordingly I'm announcing today on election the Coalition will undertake a
comprehensive and independent review of the Trade Practices Act from 1974 including all aspects of
competition arrangements in Australia.

HEATHER EWART: As expected, he reaffirmed the Coalition would scrap Labor's mining tax but again it
was left to Andrew Robb to do the explaining on whether it was fair to include this as a $16
billion Budget saving.

PRESS CLUB MEMBER: How can you by abandoning a tax that doesn't exist, and may not even exist in
this coming financial year, claim that to be a saving? It doesn't affect the bottom line.

ANDREW ROBB: Yes it does, if the Rudd Government, again in answer to your earlier...

PRESS CLUB MEMBER: We're talking about potential consequences.

ANDREW ROBB: No, no, no, no I'm just saying if people vote the Rudd Government in all that money
will be spent, right, it is again we are comparing what money will be spent if the Rudd Government
is elected to office in the next four years and what money will be spent by the Coalition.

HEATHER EWART: The $46.7 billion of savings identified in today's costings include, to name a few,
an end to the digital education revolution, reduced funding for the green car innovation fund and
abolishing E-health, that's patients' individual electronic health records.

JOE HOCKEY: The irony of the Government's allocation in the Budget is they've funded the first two
years but there's a great damn hole for the next two years.

HEATHER EWART: It was a move swiftly condemned by leading health experts.

PAUL GROSS, INSTITUTE OF HEALTH ECONOMICS: If you're going to talk productivity and better
infrastructure you cannot, Joe, ignore the investment in health information technology and
therefore your decision, knee jerk in my view, to remove this $467 million is plain dumb.

HEATHER EWART: All up this was not one of the Opposition's better days.

And Joe Hockey may well have left himself vulnerable to more questions about whether he's up to the
job.