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Labor, Liberals fight over policy costings

The coalition and Labor have traded barbs about policy costings as an estimated one million Australians will have cast their vote eight days out from the federal election.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham accused the opposition of being disingenuous on its spending commitments by not having policies independently costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office.

But his Labor counterpart Katy Gallagher dismissed the claim as another scare campaign.

“We will release our costings in the usual way at the usual time and we will be very clear about the impact on the underlying cash balance,” she told the ABC on Thursday.

“We have been releasing with our policies – whether it be in child care, aged care, uni places, some of our initial measures around community batteries or school upgrades – the costings of those individually.”

Senator Gallagher said it was the usual procedure for governments and oppositions to release their costings during the final week of the election campaign.

The government released its final costings only days ahead of polling day during the 2016 and 2019 election campaigns, she said.

“This is normal procedure. It’s done in the final week of the election campaign, usually when a lot of our announcements have been made and those costings are reconciled,” she said.

Senator Birmingham said voters could already access independent analysis and verification of 22 coalition policies on the Treasury and finance department websites.

“But if they go looking for any Labor policies, they’ll find that no Labor policies have been submitted to treasury and finance or the Parliamentary Budget Office … for analysis, confirmation and publication.”

Senator Birmingham accused the opposition of being “tricky” with its fiscal figures, adding spending would be increased through unannounced agreements with unions and Labor state governments.

“You can see that it’s (Labor frontbencher) Tanya Plibersek and others giving a nod and a wink and saying, ‘Oh, yes, we will do more. We will negotiate, we will give more as the government’,” he said.

“But they’re not saying transparently what the costs of that will be.”

Any final Labor costings also hinge on the coalition’s campaign launch scheduled for Sunday, where new policies are usually announced.

Any announcements could change the overall budget bottom lines for both parties through additional spending, and the opposition’s decision on whether it will match any announced commitments, Labor argues.

Senator Birmingham says the government’s final reconciliation will be made public after the campaign launch, but announced policies had been submitted through government departments for independent assessment.

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