Joe Hockey’s Budget Reply has come badly unstuck after he refused to provide details of savings costings despite Tony Abbott’s commitment last week that he would spell them out in his traditional Shadow Treasurer’s reply.

He also refused to guarantee that Ken Henry would be reappointed under a Coalition Government, signalling that the Howard-appointed Treasury Secretary, a target of the Coalition since Labor came to power, would be out of a job in the event Hockey became Treasurer.

The stumbles overshadowed a well-crafted speech by Hockey centring on Coalition principles and his proposals for reviews of competition policy and infrastructure access and Australia’s infrastructure stock.

The refusal to provide the detail of costings – which were provided at the end of the speech after questions had finished, annoyed a number of journalists and Hockey was accused of poor form and of failing to fulfill Tony Abbott’s commitment to provide policy detail.  Together with Hockey’s drive-by execution of Ken Henry in response to a journalist’s question, it amounted to a wholly unnecessary self-inflicted wound by Hockey.

Hockey boasted in his speech of $47.6b in savings.  These turn out to heavily reliant on $18b obtained from cancelling the National Broadband Network and $4b from the sale of Medibank Private.

Hockey also committed a Coalition Government to axing programs such as:

  • the computers in schools program ($700m)
  • e-health initiatives ($467m)
  • Productivity Places and Trade Training Centres programs ($2b)
  • GP Super Clinics ($355m)
  • Carbon Trust and Climate Change Foundation program ($278m) and
  • reducing funding for the Solar Flagships program.

These total $8b, and add to the $4.6b in savings announced last week by Tony Abbott, primarily based on a public service job freeze.  The Coalition has also added ~$11.5b in savings from expenditure funded by the RSPT, as well as non-recurrent savings from the sale of Medibank Private and the cancellation of the National Broadband Network.

Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb is scheduled to hold a press conference at 2.30pm to discuss the cuts.