Tony Abbott to face key honesty test at first budget

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott faces a key "honesty test" as the Coalition Government prepares for its first budget in six weeks' time, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said on Wednesday.

Mr Shorten, addressing the National Press Club in Canberra, sought to frame the debate on the coming budget around a series of "tests" for Mr Abbott's leadership.

He said if the budget message was "nothing but bellow and bluster about a manufactured budget emergency", then he would have failed the "honesty test".

Mr Shorten also said if the budget brought cuts or changes that would force Australia's middle class to "carry a bigger burden", it would be "proof you are not the Prime Minister you promised to be".

However, Treasurer Joe Hockey on Tuesday hit out at the Opposition's record on economic management, saying Labor hid a virtual "tsunami of spending" in the forward estimates.

He said Labor's last budget had pushed many promised spending programs off the standard four-year budget timeframe, indicating another potential $17 billion deficit blow-out by May.

But Labor's Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen released analysis from the Parliamentary Budget Office suggesting the federal government's balance sheet would return to surplus in five years.

Those figures, based on Labor's previous forecasts when in government, and not adjusted for changes under the Abbott Government, showed a potential debt reduction of up to $260 billion by 2023-24.

The heightened economic debate comes as the government prepares its response to the Commission of Audit, which will likely feed into the May budget due in just over six weeks.



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