The announcements came late, but they finally came, and after a busy few days of media appearances by the PM, treasurer-in-waiting Scott Morrison, and the occasional one by Joe Hockey, there is not much we don’t know about tonight’s budget.

A more comprehensive childcare package will be paid for by cuts to paid parental leave (those greedy mothers who take time off work to give birth to the next generation of taxpayers will no longer be able to “double dip”), there will be an asset-test threshold for pensioners, extra money for national security, a tax on digital downloads, and a tax rate cut for small businesses.

After fundamentally misreading the mood of the electorate last year, the Abbott government has done an about-face on several of the major initiatives proposed in the last budget.

Ideologically, the government also appears to be in a process of political reinvention.

A generous paid parental leave scheme that was once the centrepiece of Abbott’s election campaign has been consigned to the political dust-bin, and the Coalition now boasts a less generous scheme than Labor. Scott Morrison, who had no qualms about locking up children as a hardline immigration minister, has reinvented himself as friend of the under-5s. And senior members of the government have been at pains to convince voters they are now listening.

Abbott will be hoping tonight’s budget provides a reset for a disillusioned electorate and within his own party. But what is still unclear after 19 months in office is what this government fundamentally stands for — and whether voters will buy it.

The Crikey team has been let out of the bunker and descended on Canberra for this afternoon’s budget lock-up. Stay tuned for more in a special budget night newsletter tonight. It’s Christmas come early for policy wonks and political nerds — so keep an eye out for us in your inbox about 8pm.

Peter Fray

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