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Coalition just not up to managing the economy

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Media Release 29 July 2013


The Coalition’s recent backflip rejection of the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal (PEFO) outlook underlines its lack of fiscal credibility, and is an unprecedented attempt to bypass the scrutiny that has applied to the Government and Oppositions for 15 years.

The Opposition Leader and Shadow Treasurer’s rejection of PEFO displays no respect for the independent process instituted by the Howard Government, and frankly, shows this Coalition is just not fit to manage the Australian economy.

What Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey are engaged in is nothing short of fiscal vandalism.

They are no doubt preparing for the kinds of cuts to jobs and services that we have seen carried out by Campbell Newman’s Queensland Government - and they’re seeking to hide this fact before the election.

Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey are clearly not up to the job of presenting credible fiscal alternatives - and as a result the Australian people will not see fully-funded Coalition policies, costed by the appropriate independent authorities.

Instead, we’re likely to see the same old dodgy accounting that resulted in the last companies to cost their policies being fined for breaching professional standards.

This scandalous conduct is an insult to the Australian people - and an insult to Peter Costello.

This is what Mr Hockey said last week:

"If PEFO looms the same as the economic statement, then PEFO won’t be worth the paper it’s written on." Joe Hockey, Australian Financial Review - 26 July 2013.

Compare this to what Mr Costello, who established the Charter of Budget Honesty in 1998, said:

“…This government will introduce by legislation a charter of Budget Honesty so that the Australian people know the situation before an election begins and so that elections can be conducted on the basis of the facts and not on the basis of deceit…” Treasurer Peter Costello, Hansard, 1 May 1996.

As part of the Charter, the Departments of Treasury and Finance must provide an independent update so the public can see the state of the budget before casting their vote.

Oppositions and governments have respected the Charter until Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey turned their backs on this honest and independent fact checking process.

Peter Costello’s greatest hits: the importance of PEFO and the Charter of Budget Honesty

“The proposed legislation will prevent future governments going to an election on the basis of misleading information on the fiscal and economic outlook. It will ensure that at all times governments can be held properly to account for their fiscal and economic policies.” Statement on the Charter of Budget Honesty, 20 August 1996

“Never again, if this legislation passes, would a government be able to go into an election without the public being aware of the current economic and fiscal situation.” Hansard, Second Reading speech, 5 December 1997

“That’s why we introduced the Charter of Budget Honesty, it’s kind of like a breathalyser on the budget figures. You know where they’re going, but a Charter of Budget Honesty will actually show you what the figures are.” 15 May 1998

“(A government) could never go to the Australian people and try to deceive them as to the state of the true accounts when the Australian people were in a mood before an election where they could be deceived in that way. The charter of budget honesty is world-class legislation.” Hansard, 11 March 1998

“The charter ensures that an independent umpire can verify and cost the major party’s policies so Australians can make up their own minds about which party has economic credibility.” Media Release, 16 November 2007.

Joe Hockey’s greatest miss-hits: flip-flopping on the importance of PEFO

“We have always said that the only numbers we can actually rely on are the numbers released by the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury and Finance, ten days into the election campaign. Because they belong to the public servants rather than these numbers which belong to the Government.”

ABC NewsRadio, 15 May 2013

“The only document that is really the Treasury's document is the one released by the Treasury officials during the election. We go off those numbers because they're as close to honest as you can get.” ABC 24, 15 May2013

“We’re not going to cop the Treasury being bullied by the government into producing PEFO numbers that are closely aligned to government’s.” Australian Financial Review, 26 July 2013.

Media Contacts: Bill Kyriakopoulos 0400 510 802 / Lidija Ivanovski 0434 561 730