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Australian PM Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Tony Abbott, pictured in Canberra before a debate, on August 11, 2013/AFP


Australian election campaigners clash on costings

Australian PM Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Tony Abbott, pictured in Canberra before a debate, on August 11, 2013/AFP

Australian PM Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Tony Abbott, pictured in Canberra before a debate, on August 11, 2013/AFP

SYDNEY, Aug 13 – Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Tuesday increased pressure on the conservative opposition to reveal its policy costings, as the economy was judged the number one issue in next month’s election.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd used the release of independent Treasury figures broadly in line with his government’s forecasts to urge Liberal/National opposition leader Tony Abbott to reveal what his policies would cost and where cuts would be made.

The Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook statement, designed to give all political parties a fair look at the nation’s finances before an election, confirmed the Rudd government’s Aus$30 billion (US$27 billion) budget deficit forecast.

“It is D-day for Mr Abbott when it comes to announcing his own budget bottom line,” Rudd said on the campaign trail in northern Queensland.

“Mr Abbott has been preparing for this election for three years. It is fundamental for the Australian people to know where Mr Abbott’s $70 billion worth of cuts to health, education and jobs are going to fall.”

Abbott, whom opinion polls show is likely to end six years of Labor government and take power, has repeatedly said Australian voters will know his savings plans well before the September 7 election.

He said Tuesday he would release the costings of his policies, which include repealing an industry tax on carbon pollution and another on mining profits, after a “thorough consideration” of the latest financial update.

“What we will be doing is telling you exactly how much our policies cost, exactly how we are going to pay for them and everyone will be able to see how the overall budgetary position is better off under the coalition,” he told journalists.

The Treasury update said the economy was expected to grow 2.5 percent in 2013-14 and 3.0 percent in 2014-15, and there would be an estimated underlying cash deficit of Aus$30.1 billion (1.9 percent of GDP) for 2013-14.

It noted uncertainty surrounding the global outlook, and said the economy’s transition to new sources of growth beyond mining may not occur as smoothly as forecast. But the economy was expected to return to surplus in 2016-17.

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“A rebalancing of growth towards the non-resource sectors is needed to deliver sustained economic growth,” it said.

“While this transition has commenced, it is now expected to take longer than at budget (predicted in May). Still, sustained low interest rates and the lower Australian dollar are expected to underpin a return to around trend growth in 2014-15.”

Earlier this month the central bank cut interest rates to a new record low of 2.5 percent, underscoring fears of a major economic slowdown.

The economy is the number one issue for Australians in the election, according to data from an interactive tool hosted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Vote Compass has so far captured the views of more than 500,000 Australians on issues ranging from euthanasia to asylum-seekers and climate change.

Using data drawn from the first 250,000 responses and weighted to reflect the national population, it found the economy was ranked number one, with asylum-seekers a distant but clear second.

Asked how trustworthy and competent Rudd and Abbott were on a scale of one to 10, the contenders were neck-and-neck, according to Vote Compass which had Rudd a small margin ahead at 3.8 compared to Abbott’s 3.7.

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