Would have won election, says Abbott, defending budget

Canberra, Feb 27 (IANS) Australia’s former prime minister Tony Abbott said his controversial 2014 budget was a “badge of honour” and “fundamentally fair”, while predicting an Abbott government would have won this year’s election.

Abbott penned an essay for conservative journal Quadrant defending his prime ministership, which argues his government’s achievements “will stand the test of time”, ABC reported on Saturday.

In September 2014 Abbott was toppled by Malcolm Turnbull, who argued the MP for Warringah had not shown economic leadership.

But the now-backbencher denied this, writing: “The government’s economic narrative had been clear from the beginning — lower taxes, less regulation and higher productivity.”

The coalition’s 2014 budget put forward billions of dollars in cuts to health, education and foreign aid, and saw it lose ground in opinion polls, he said in the essay.

It included making unemployed people under 30 wait six months for the dole, along with university fee deregulation and pension indexation changes.

“Judging things by polls, many commentators have identified the 2014 budget as the Abbott government’s biggest mistake,” Abbott wrote.

“I regard it more as a badge of honour because it showed that we were serious about long-term budget repair and could therefore be trusted with the long-term economic management of the country.”

“Overall, it was a fundamentally fair budget because it sought to end the intergenerational theft involved in piling up debts for our children and grandchildren to meet,” he wrote.

Abbott said he and then-treasurer Joe Hockey had been “careful to avoid breaking promises” during their time on the expenditure review committee of cabinet, but his “no surprises” commitment was challenging, given there had not been pre-election debate about a medicare co-payment or university deregulation.

He thought people would accept the changes, seeing them as part of the coalition’s pledge to control the budget.

Abbott said he was confident that his government could have won the 2016 election campaigning on budget savings and lower tax.

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