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Major parties do battle over budget black holes -

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TONY EASTLEY: Election campaigning today was largely fought over budget management, beginning with a Government salvo about Labor's promises and claims of a financial black hole.

The Opposition cried "lie" and told reporters the Coalition was fiddling with the figures.

When the shouting was done, little more was achieved than to underline broad similarities in the parties' major policies.

Political reporter Tom Iggulden has more from Canberra.

TOM IGGULDEN: The Treasurer Scott Morrison and the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann had clearly put a lot of work into today's theatrics.

Journalists were presented with page after page of carefully collated Opposition statements and budget data, all woven together to present a rich tapestry of fiscal recklessness on Labor's part.

Mr Morrison gravely delivered the bottom line.

SCOTT MORRISON: And what a close analysis of the Opposition's figures show is that there is a $67 billion black hole in Labor's spending and budget commitments that show that Labor simply can't promises they are making.

TOM IGGULDEN: But that figure soon came under serious question.

Labor announced on the weekend it would be committing only around $880 million over the next four years to extra foreign aid spending, the timeframe on which the Government's is calculating the numbers it put out today.

Those numbers assume Labor will spend an extra $19 billion in that period, based on a broad commitment it gave some years ago to lift foreign aid spending to half a per cent of gross national income.

JOURNALIST: Aren't you out already by $18.4 billion on that number - did you not check what they...?

SCOTT MORRISON: ...comment on that but at the same time Labor have not walked away from they say is their commitment to a 0.5 per cent of GNI commitment on foreign aid.

Now if Labor are walking away from their 0.5 per cent commitment of gross national income on foreign aid, well they should say so.

TOM IGGULDEN: Labor's finance spokesman Tony Burke is clarifying clarified that while Labor will make a relatively mild lift to the foreign aid budget, it's never intended to get to the full half per cent of GNI figure anytime soon.

TONY BURKE: We will be providing more in foreign aid than what the Government will be providing, but the budget simply cannot afford in the state that it's in to be able to simply push all that money back in, in the course of a term.

There is no prospect of that happening. The budget is not in a position to be able to do this.

TOM IGGULDEN: That sounded suspiciously like the Treasurer's answer when he was asked if the Government stuck by its identical broad commitment to return the aid budget to half a per cent of gross national income.

SCOTT MORRISON: The Government hasn't walked away from the long term commitment on those issues, but the trajectory of our spending over the next four years is exactly as we've set it out.

TOM IGGULDEN: And that was the way it played out over several areas of policy.

Labor, for example, has promised to consult on the Government's controversial backpacker tax, worth half a billion dollars, which the Government adds to the black hole.

But the Government too is reviewing the tax and neither side has committed to axing it and losing the revenue that it'd bring in.

The same goes for the Government's superannuation changes, worth around $11 billion according to today's document. Labor's made no firm decisions, yet it's being added to the so-called black hole.

Mr Morrison admits there's some flexibility in what the Government's put out today.

SCOTT MORRISON: Worst case scenario is $67 billion, best case scenario is a $32 billion black hole. Either way Australians will pay more for what Labor is claiming at this election.

TOM IGGULDEN: That gave Labor an opportunity to indulge in some theatrics of its own, through Mr Burke.

TONY BURKE: Can I give a hint to the Treasurer and the Finance Minister and their Prime Minister who's the person we used to know as Malcolm Turnbull.

During this election campaign, Liberal Party policies will be announced by the Liberal Party. Labor Party policy will be announced by the Labor Party.

The Government doesn't get to do both and today that's exactly, exactly what they tried to do.

TOM IGGULDEN: And he attacked the Government's budget management over its three years in office.

TONY BURKE: They have more than tripled the deficit for the next financial year in the life of this government.

They have added $100 billion to net debt.

TOM IGGULDEN: That again sounded pretty similar to Mr Morrison's attack on Labor's track record of budget management.

SCOTT MORRISON: They took a $20 billion surplus and turned it into a $54 billion deficit in just two years. That is extraordinary.

TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison ending Tom Iggulden's report.