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Attacking Abbott

Michelle Grattan says MPs are now considering the lessons, especially as Labor decides how far it can go in attacking Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

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THE federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, has seized on comments by Tony Abbott that he wanted to get the ''economy growing again'' to suggest the Opposition Leader needs to go back to school.

The Treasurer said Mr Abbott was proving his incompetence by claiming the economy was not growing.

''It's either epicly ignorant or he's flat-out lying because he thinks he can say whatever he wants about the economy and get away with it,'' Mr Swan said yesterday.

Treasurer Wayne Swan

"Maybe Mr Abbott could sit in on a year 8 economics class" ... Treasurer Wayne Swan. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

''Maybe Mr Abbott could sit in on a year 8 economics class and learn that our economy is growing - more strongly than any major advanced economy, in fact.''

The latest national accounts, released a month ago, showed Australia's economy growing at an annual rate of 3.7 per cent. The economy grew 0.6 per cent in the June quarter.

The Treasurer also savaged Mr Abbott for continuing to ''trash talk'' the economy after the Opposition Leader again pointed out countries could go from a comparatively strong position to a desperately weak one ''very quickly''.

''The problem we've got in Australia at the moment is that we've got a government which is spending like a drunken sailor,'' Mr Abbott told Channel Ten, adding, ''one of the things I want to do is get our economy growing again.''

Mr Swan said Mr Abbott should ''put his aggressive negativity on a leash and stop trying to kneecap confidence to score a political point''.

Last week, the Liberal leader was under fire from Labor after he backed comments by the former Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief and head of the Future Fund, David Murray, warning Australia risked a European-style economic downturn if debt was not addressed.

Yesterday, Mr Abbott said the Coalition would find savings of about $50 billion to fund its election commitments, including a generous paid parental leave scheme.

The government has repeatedly accused the Coalition of having a $70 billion budget black hole, but Mr Abbott insisted ''we will fully fund all of our promises''.

''Before the last election we identified $50 billion worth of savings,'' he said.

''We have a similar task before the coming election. We will rise to this task, as we always have.''

Mr Abbott accepted it was a big challenge but said the Coalition was up to it.

Labor attacks on the Coalition have been blunted recently because it has promised to deliver a national disability insurance scheme, an education funding overhaul and a new dental program without explaining where the money will come from.

''It's making tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars worth of unfunded commitments,'' Mr Abbott said. ''The government is a bit like the tenant trashing the house before it gets evicted.''

Mr Swan wasn't impressed with that comparison either.

''Hearing Mr Abbott lecturing on spending restraint is like hearing a drunk giving lectures on sobriety,'' he said. ''It would be laughable if it weren't coming from a man who wants to be PM.''

AAP