Give Treasurer Joe Hockey a desk and a phone, his good friend Malcolm Turnbull declares, and he can sell anything.
"He would find an old sandshoe and a couple of bottle tops and he would be selling those," Mr Turnbull told a NSW Liberal Party luncheon on Monday, warming up the crowd before Mr Hockey's post-budget speech.
"Joe has got commercial instincts in his DNA."
Even so, Mr Hockey's sales pitch to the party faithful had a touch of shrillness about it, following dire Fairfax-Nielsen polling showing the Coalition's stocks have plummeted after its first budget.
In a trumpet call to his fellow conservatives, Mr Hockey was animated and at times defensive as he spruiked the logic of his reforms, insisting the budget may not be popular, but it is "right for Australia".
"We didn't go through ... all the dark days of opposition to get back into government and do the things that might please people, that might sound easy on the ear," he said.
"We did it to make a difference for our nation ... to strengthen our economy, to give people hope that tomorrow would be better than today."
Earlier, Mr Turnbull had continued the Coalition's doomsday rhetoric about Australia's economic prospects if government spending is not curbed.
"Were we to proceed on a business-as-usual approach, we would see deficits out forever, and debt ballooning to levels which would impoverish our children and grandchildren. Of that there can be no doubt," Mr Turnbull said.
Mr Hockey defended the most controversial of his budget measures, including cuts to family tax benefits, the Medicare co-payment, tougher welfare eligibility and deregulated university fees.
On his plan to raise the pension age to 70 by 2035, Mr Hockey said those in physical careers would be encouraged to transition to other jobs.
"You don't play first grade football all your life, I don't expect you'll be a bricklayer or a plumber all your life until you're 65 or 70. There will be multiple careers that people have," he said.
Addressing his cuts to family tax benefits, Mr Hockey said the economy could no longer afford to support stay-at-home parents.
"Who is going to pay the tax that's going to pay for that parent to choose to stay at home? Someone has to pay that money. It doesn't come from the magic tree," he said.
Mr Hockey avoided questions about the bad government polling, claiming "it's about delivering the right policies".
"You have a policy commitment and then you deliver the policy and the dividend flows," he said.