Third party to cost Coalition promises

The Coalition will have an independent accounting firm cost its election promises if the Australian Federal Police refuse to investigate the leaking of a Treasury document that has muddied its election campaign.


The confidential analysis, obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, reportedly shows the Coalition overestimated by $800 million savings it would gain from scrapping the national broadband network.

Coalition finance spokesman Andrew Robb on Thursday said he had written to the AFP commissioner seeking an investigation into the leak.

Treasurer Wayne Swan’s inaction on the issue had left him with no other choice, he said.

“The thing that Mr Swan needs to concern himself with is the knock on the door from the federal police,” he told ABC Television on Thursday.

“That is one interview that he can’t run away from.” Mr Swan said he would co-operate with a police investigation but dismissed the complaint as a “stunt” to avoid fiscal scrutiny.

The analysis reportedly was dated early July, predating the election campaign, but the opposition was entitled to call in the police, he said.

“There is an expenditure blowout in the coalition’s proposals and they won’t front up for detailed scrutiny,” Mr Swan told reporters in Canberra.

Labor wants the coalition to submit its policies to the Treasury or finance department for review by Friday, but it is refusing to do so until the leak is investigated.

Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey told ABC Television that coalition policies would instead be handed over to a third party by Wednesday.

An AFP spokeswoman told AAP Mr Robb’s complaint had been received and police were assessing it before deciding whether to investigate.

Labor’s campaign spokesman Chris Bowen accused the coalition of hypocrisy, dredging up the Godwin Grech saga.

The government last year called in police to investigate the ex-Treasury official over a forged email leaked to then opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull.

It is widely believed Mr Grech had leaked real departmental documents to the coalition over a number of years.

“The hypocrisy of … a party which cultivated and developed a leak from Treasury in Godwin Grech is breathtaking,” Mr Bowen said.

The police complaint capped off another tit-for-tat day over election promise costings.

The Coalition repeated its promise to index the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Fund, and announced a further $1.389 billion of recurrent budget savings, bringing its total election commitments to $29.971 billion.

Mr Robb said the coalition would make provision for the additional burden indexation would have on the defence scheme by making contributions to the Future Fund.

The biggest savings came from matching Labor’s decisions to remove funding quarantined for information technology ($447.5 million) and to increase the efficiency dividend from one per cent to 1.25 per cent from July 1, 2011 ($390 million).

Mr Swan said coalition changes to the defence retirement would cost $8 billion and completely muddle the budget with “cascading liability” peaking in 2019/20.

The Coalition’s new savings were all measures Labor had already identified, he said.

“They are having a lot of trouble, a lot of trouble, making the savings to cover their spending splurge,” he said. The Coalition has promised to announce further savings before polling day.

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