There is a big hole in Coalition savings, government says

Chris Bowen, Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong are pushing for the Coalition to release their full costings. AAP/Lukas Coch

The government claims to have found a $10 billion hole in the opposition’s $31.6 billion savings package.

Labor bases its figure on material prepared before the caretaker period by Treasury, the Finance department and the Parliamentary Budget Office.

As the great debate over costings and savings continued, Kevin Rudd accused Tony Abbott of being “untruthful” with the Australian people.

Rudd said that Abbott had had no answer during last night’s debate when challenged to release all costings immediately.

The government says the $10 billion savings hole includes erroneous figures relating to not proceeding with the low-income superannuation contribution, and inaccuracy in calculating the savings from reducing public service staff by 12,000.

It also says that most of the $5.1 billion claimed saving from discontinuing free permits in the Jobs and Competitiveness Fund does not have an impact on the underlying cash balance, and just $300 million of the $1.5 billion saving from discontinuing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation can be claimed as only this portion hits the budget bottom line.

Rudd said that less than 10 days from the election “all we have from Mr Abbott so far, I believe, are deep questions about his judgment on policy priorities and now deep questions about his truthfulness in levelling with the Australian people about what all his costs are and where precisely he is going to cut.”

Abbott stood by all his savings numbers. He will release policy costings, some more savings and bottom line numbers next week, but will not commit to a precise timetable for getting back to surplus because he says the opposition cannot be sure of the budgetary numbers.

Meanwhile, Nationals leader Warren Truss announced a Coalition government would set up a National Stronger Regions Fund, to help communities with high rates of unemployment.

It would invest $200 million annually in local capital works. The money would have to be matched by state governments or communities. The program would start in 2015, when councils and community groups would be able to apply for grants between $20,000 and $10 million to meet half the cost of community building projects.