Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey will unveil the Coalition's election costings on Thursday, leaving voters just hours to digest the numbers while also refusing to say when the budget would be back in the black under his management.
Fairfax Media has been told the Coalition's figures will not form an alternative budget or seek to match or exceed the government's proposed pathway to surplus in four years. Rather, they will show the final aggregate cost of Coalition promises and savings, even though many of those are reliant on the promise to scrap the carbon and mining tax package and so would require passage through a hostile Senate.
After five weeks of campaigning and a sustained political argument over the final budget impact of the Coalition's spending and savings plans, Mr Hockey will reveal his list of policy costings on the penultimate day of the campaign, promising only that the budget would be ''in excess of $6 billion'' better off in cash terms under his stewardship, and that gross debt would be $16 billion lower.
He will tell voters the $6 billion improvement will come from savings and higher economic growth but does not include any expected growth dividend from dumping the carbon tax, despite Parliamentary Budget Office modelling that it could add $1.1 billion to the bottom line through increased economic activity.
The costings have been done by the PBO and will have been signed off by the Coalition's so-called ''eminent persons'' panel comprising former top bureaucrat Peter Shergold, economist Geoff Carmody and former Queensland auditor-general Len Scanlan.
The three men have been locked in the Liberal Party's Melbourne campaign headquarters in recent days scouring the numbers to ensure that the errors of the last election, when Treasury found an $11 billion hole in Coalition figures, are not repeated. Mr Hockey will argue that the economy will grow faster under the Coalition, and that billions of dollars of red-tape costs could be stripped away.
Mr Hockey's office confirmed that a Coalition government would, as part of its proposed Commission of Audit, redirect millions of dollars of "obscure research grants" into projects deemed more worthy, such as finding cures for dementia and other diseases.
- Click here for the Coalition's election commitment costings
- Click here for the budget impacts of the costings
The election campaign is now into the final stretch with a ban on election advertising in effect from midnight Wednesday.
With the Coalition well in front in the polls, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has admitted the election is make or break for him, telling the ABC's Kitchen Cabinet cooking show: ''I think one thing we can be absolutely certain of is that I won't be the Opposition Leader after the election.''
Labor has laid out $54.6 billion in combined deficits over the coming three years but promises to have the federal books showing a small $4.2 billion surplus in 2016-17.
Mr Hockey's refusal to outline a path to surplus is expected to bring an attack from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who will make his final campaign set-piece speech at the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday.
Mr Rudd will seek to capitalise on Labor's success in steering Australia through the global financial crisis in 2008-09. A Labor source said Mr Rudd would ''strongly defend this record against a Liberal vision of the GFC, which would have been to cut deep and look after the interests of a few''.
Mr Rudd is also expected to claim that the Coalition has big cuts planned that voters will only learn about once an audit of spending is completed.