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Hockey hasn’t given up on surplus

Treasurer Joe Hockey has attempted to calm the nerves of edgy coalition backbenchers while soothing concerns of business over his budget strategy.


In a slideshow presentation to a meeting of government MPs on Tuesday, Mr Hockey promised any new spending will be offset by “responsible and fair” savings.

He also vowed to improve the budget bottom line each year.

“We will get the budget back to surplus as soon as possible,” he said without nominating a more specific timetable for getting back into the black.

The presentation comes after Prime Minister Tony Abbott clouded expectations by predicting a dull budget, which business took to mean the government is going soft on reform.

But Mr Abbott used a tribute to the late Singaporean leader Lee Kwan Yew in parliament to indicate his government’s reform ambitions are not complete.

He recalled Mr Lee’s warning 30 years ago that Australia risked becoming “the poor white trash of Asia” which struck a chord in Canberra and prompted a quarter century of reform under the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments.

“But if we are to avoid his prophecy, the challenge for this generation is to ensure that the age of reform in this country has been merely interrupted not ended,” Mr Abbott said.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the government can’t keep to one position on its budget strategy for a week.

“This is a government that brought down the wrong plan in its first unfair budget … and it currently has no plan apart from more of the same,” he said in a statement.

Even so, cabinet minister Barnaby Joyce reckons most Australians will appreciate a dull and boring budget because that’s what they want from their accountant.

“When do you decide to go to an accountant that is manic and crazy?” said Mr Joyce, who was an accountant before entering politics.

The boring strategy could be working, with the government enjoying a surprise improvement in the latest Newspoll and consumer confidence rising for a second week in a row.


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