Trust me, says Abbott, the carbon tax is dead

TONY ABBOTT has promised to restore trust to Australian politics but refused to explain how he will balance the budget while delivering new spending and the abolition of some taxes.

He also promised to do whatever it takes to scrap the carbon tax, even if it means another election within a year should the Senate prove unco-operative.

''When I say there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead, I am telling the truth,'' he said.

Making a mockery of Julia Gillard's claim that electioneering would be limited to the month before the September 14 poll, Mr Abbott leapt from the blocks on Thursday with a broad-ranging speech long on rhetoric but short on funding detail.

Declaring ''I am ready'', his nationally televised stump-speech signalled an intention to dedicate the next 7½ months to the nation's longest-ever federal campaign.

''I'm ready for the election,'' he said. ''The choice has rarely been clearer or meant more for the future of our country.''

But his high-energy pitch before an audience at the National Press Club in Canberra loaded with Coalition loyalists and containing his parents, his wife Margie and daughter Frances was cruelled by an embarrassing security breakdown from within his own office.

A leaked email revealed internal disagreement over when to come clean on unpopular cuts to government programs.

Advice from his principal media adviser, Andrew Hirst, called for more of the ''vision thing'' in the speech, but counselled against detailing cuts to an unspecified program later identified as the schoolchildren bonus announced in the last federal budget.

Asked if he had glossed over the bad news in a bid to protect his standing with voters, Mr Abbott said the program cut had been mentioned.

''At the risk of dobbing in my principal press secretary, we did have a discussion via email about a matter, whether it should be in or out. It was the school kids bonus and as you know it's in the speech,'' he said.

''It's not going to happen under a Coalition government because it's a cash splash with borrowed money and nothing to do with education.''

The bonus pays eligible families $410 per primary school student and twice that for secondary school students.

The scrapping of the measure had already been flagged by Coalition frontbenchers.

However, at around $2.1 billion over five years, any saving would account for a only small part of the savings task ahead of the opposition.

Another saving reconfirmed was a pledge to scrap the low-income superannuation contributions scheme, which the government says would deprive 3.6 million low-income earners, many women, of up to $500 a year in extra superannuation.

The Coalition is coming under increasing pressure to explain how it will fund promises to abolish the carbon and mining taxes, spend billions on new roads and infrastructure projects, and support disability insurance while quarantining defence spending and other superannuation concessions.

Ms Gillard's unorthodox decision to set the election date so far in advance was designed in part to force Mr Abbott to reveal his costings once the budget provides an accurate and comprehensive snapshot of the national balance sheet.

But if that was the intention, Mr Abbott showed on Thursday he was not for turning, declaring ''the Coalition will reveal our costings after the government reveals theirs''. That suggests, as Abbott insiders had said previously, that the Coalition's costings will not be revealed until deep into the formal election campaign following the release of the Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook document.

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