Joe Hockey has some big shoes to fill as Federal Treasurer.

Joe Hockey has some big shoes to fill as Federal Treasurer. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Federal politics: full coverage

In his first six months as federal treasurer Joe Hockey wooed G20 finance ministers and secured a rare agreement from his state and territory counterparts.

No mean feats. But that's nothing compared to the challenge of his first budget.

Now he has to negotiate with the people who really count - voters.

Hockey finally gets the chance to show off his economic prowess, having spent much of the past four years attacking Labor's Wayne Swan who he primarily blames for leaving the nation's finances in an unsustainable position.

He also has some big shoes to fill as a Liberal treasurer.

Hockey's first ministerial experience was in financial services and regulation under Peter Costello, frequently described by those in the coalition as the nation's greatest treasurer.

Between then and when the Howard government lost the 2007 election, Hockey administered portfolios covering small business, human services, employment and workplace relations and the public service.

Coincidentally, Hockey in framing his first budget finds himself is a very similar position to Costello - inheriting a big deficit and even bigger debt from Labor.

Like Costello, Hockey is committed to making the hard decisions to restore the nation's finances.

If he doesn't, the budget will remain in deficit for "as far as the eye can see" and government debt will more than double towards $700 billion over the next decade.

Don't be taken in by Hockey's genial manner. He's no soft touch.

He has stood firm against splashing out cash to save ailing auto makers and resisted other calls to save corporate hides.

And when he says he will be taking hard decisions to get the budget - and the economy - back on track, he probably means it.

Already he plans to lift the pension age to 70 by 2035; impose a co-payment for visiting the doctor; and possibly hit higher-income earners with a temporary tax levy.

And there's a host of other potential nasties to consider from the commission of audit.

When he was about to face his G20 counterparts back in February, Hockey felt he should just be himself - a "straight-talking Australian".

"Their relief at the straight talk was palpable," he told a recent business audience.

New Zealand Finance Minister Bill English says Hockey did a great job building a sense of confidence and camaraderie among what is a very broad group of economies.

Opinion polls suggest translating that same feeling among Australians might be a lot more difficult.

AAP