The coming Coalition costings collapse

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The Coalition are increasing in the polls, but with their suspect budget costings still to be revealed, Lionel Grant predicts some serious pain for them before September 7.

hockey 1b
Joe Hockey — a giant black hole. (Caricature by John Graham / johngraham.alphalink.com.au)

BLACK ABYSSES GALORE, it would seem — we all remember Abbott's $11 billion budgetary black hole as the final nail, independently knocked into the coffin carrying his hung parliament hopes to bash a female out of the top job in 2010. So, is history on repeat from all sides in this not so new campaign?

Much of the most recently polled data from the major agencies, including the two-party result from last week's Galaxy poll of 51%, and today’s Newspoll of 52% to the LNP has Labor just behind, while today’s dead even two-party result from Roy Morgan remains in line with last week. However, this is all while Rudd and Bowen have already come out with all the bad news on their budgetary blues, where Abbott and Hockey are yet to let the matted, flea-ridden cat out from their bad-maths bag and, like during 2010, the Coalition’s fiscal credibility will be scratched upon its unethically late arrival.

With last week’s eight page document from the Finance Minister detailing line by line, spend by spend, an earthquake sized $70 billion Coalition black hole, it was far from surprising that during last night’s election debate, Abbott lumped all the mathematics of it down to being ''simply a fantasy''. Citing Rudd induced fantasies was all good and well in theory, but Abbott refused to say from where the billions in lost revenue under his plan would come. Abbott’s only real commitment to not utterly decimate the public services was to say 'no big scalpel' was to be leashed upon them, yet no substantial commitments to retain the current levels of health and education provision were made, even with such a public opportunity to do so.

The telling handshake last night at the Leader's Debate: is Abbott about to headbutt Rudd or kiss him?
The opening handshake at the Leader's Debate: is Abbott about to headbutt Rudd or kiss him? (Image via Mike Bowers / Guardian Australia)

So with a dark cloud of uncertainty about the gapping multi-billion dollar cavity in Abbott’s numbers, will Rudd’s poll figures recover in the coming weeks? Very possibly, as it depends to a large degree on how soon Joe Hockey places the Coalition’s policies into the Charter of Budget Honesty for cost analysis, a task of integrity which he could leave until the eleventh hour, or even completely evade, as was done in the 2010 election, despite the charter being the brainchild of Peter Costello. If this is avoided by Hockey once again, attention drawn here upon could alarmingly remind Australia of the very hollow pits that so quickly steered Independent kingmakers MP’s Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor well away from working with Abbott last time around.

Today’s Roy Morgan poll, with surveys taken from 9 to 11 August, may be the most accurate of the polls given their wider, broader sweep of various Australian demographics, but Rudd will need to return to a yield of 52% two party preferred to be comfortably clear of Abbott come election day. And while the looming news of deep black budgetary caverns from the Coalition is surely in the pipeline, it could not come soon enough for those of us watching the polls with concern.

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