Australia

Morrison and Albanese target final key seats amid costings row

With just three days left before polling day, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese will deliver last-ditch election pitches in key eastern state seats, after a day in which policy costings dominated debate.

Mr Morrison will start his day in Torquay, in the marginal seat of Corangamite, where he is expected to continue to spruik the Coalition’s economic track record after the release of its policy costings on Tuesday.

The southern Victorian seat is within the Coalition’s reach, with Labor MP Libby Coker only holding on by a 1.1 per cent margin.

Meanwhile, Mr Albanese will give a National Press Club address in Canberra, before travelling to the Sydney seat of Fowler, where Labor MP Kristina Keneally’s primary vote is on the brink of collapse.

Despite recent polling predicting Mr Morrison’s imminent demise, the PM appeared confident in front of the touring press as he campaigned in the Labor-held marginal Northern Territory seats of Lingiari and Solomon on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at CareFlight’s Darwin hangar, in the electorate of Solomon, on Tuesday. Photo: Getty

He used the visit to the Top End to talk about the Coalition’s costings, claiming a re-elected Morrison government could achieve an improvement to the federal budget bottom line of about $1 billion compared to the March budget.

Mr Morrison said the savings could be achieved by cutting $2.7 billion from a departmental expenditure budget of $327.3 billion over four years.

Asked by The New Daily which departments or agencies would be targeted under the cuts, Mr Morrison said the measures wouldn’t affect programs or services, but instead would target accommodation and administration bills.

“If our senior public servants – and they’re paid well – if they can’t find $2.7 billion out of a budget of $327.3 billion, well, I’ve got a lot more confidence that they can achieve that,” the Prime Minister told reporters at a press conference at a Darwin housing display village.

He then attacked the opposition for having not yet released costings for its election promises.

Costings fight

Anthony Albanese is under pressure to release Labor’s policy costings. Photo: Getty

“We’ve submitted our policies for independent costing throughout the course of this election campaign,” Mr Morrison said.

“Labor still is yet to submit one policy for costing.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also took aim at the opposition for not yet releasing its policy costings, calling on Mr Albanese to “fess up”.

But shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said Labor had been working closely with the independent Parliamentary Budget Office and all of its election commitments had been tallied up.

“We need to flick the switch to quality (spending),” he told reporters in southern Queensland.

“We will begin that task, whether it’s trimming outsourcing, whether it’s multinational tax reform, whether it’s an audit of the government’s rorts and waste and mismanagement.”

Mr Albanese says he will release Labor’s costings on Thursday “at the same time that the last time there was a change of government occurred”.

No cuts to essential services

Other ministers joined Mr Morrison in defending the government’s planned cuts to the public service, with the Coalition keen to stamp out any suggestion that the essential services upon which Australians rely were under threat.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham promised essential services would not be cut to make the savings.

“The opportunities for departments … exist in relation to management of their accommodation, technology, consultancies and contractors, their staffing arrangements,” Senator Birmingham said in Melbourne.

“These in no way impact the delivery of services and support to Australians. Essential services remain guaranteed under the Coalition.”

According to the Australian Electoral Commission, more than 2.59 million Australians have already cast their vote.

New polling shows Labor’s lead has narrowed to 53 per cent, but the opposition still has an advantage over the Coalition, which is sitting on 47 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

The Roy Morgan poll shows the ALP is set to win the election with a swing of 4.5 per cent since the 2019 poll.

-with AAP



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