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Abbott's super cuts attacked

Tony Abbott's super changes in Thursday's budget reply have been branded as 'stupid' and 'crazy' by superannuation minister, Bill Shorten.

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Tony Abbott came on Thursday not to demolish the Labor government as a tribal leader but to chide it as an adult alternative prime minister.

As he continues his effort to evolve from tribal warrior to national leader, Abbott invoked as a model not only John Howard but also Bob Hawke. Promising to lead a government of ''no surprises and no excuses'', he offered a supra-partisan model of government that implies that Julia Gillard is some sort of weird aberration: ''You want a grown-up government like the ones that John Howard and - yes - Bob Hawke too used to run.'' Yet while he named Hawke twice, he named Gillard not once.

The clearest sign of an onset of responsibility was that Abbott publicly contemplated dumping a trademark Liberal policy - the baby bonus. 

And instead of his customary sledgehammer attack on Gillard and all her works, Abbott actually started a more discriminating process.

Satisfied: Opposition leader, Tony Abbott after delivering his budget reply.

Satisfied: Opposition leader Tony Abbott after delivering his budget response. Photo: Getty Images

Facing the likelihood that he will step into the prime ministership in just 121 days and confront tough budget choices, Abbott rejected some of her policies while reluctantly keeping open the option of accepting others.

The clearest sign of an onset of responsibility was that Abbott publicly contemplated dumping a trademark Liberal policy - the baby bonus. In his budget in reply speech, he said ''many of the measures in this budget are objectionable'', citing the scrapping of the baby bonus as one example.

But claiming a Labor-induced ''budget emergency'', the Opposition Leader said that ''we reserve the right to implement all of Labor's cuts, if needed''. This is smart politics and intelligent budgeting. It's smart politics because it allows the Gillard government to do the hard work of making unpopular spending cuts, while pocketing the proceeds for an incoming Abbott government.

And it's intelligent budgeting because it begins the task of bringing the federal deficit in check. On Labor's numbers, if Abbott wins in September he will inherit a first-year deficit of $18 billion and a second-year deficit of $10.9 billion. ''With seven in a row, the Second World War was more temporary than this government's deficits.''

And Abbott began to answer one of the puzzles he had set for himself earlier: how to scrap the carbon tax yet continue to pay some of the compensation without blowing the deficit out further.

The Coalition will delay the increase in the compulsory superannuation levy, and dump a couple of spending measures that Labor proposed to fund from its underperforming mining tax, for savings that it puts at $5 billion a year by 2016.

And it will use this to continue the $4 billion a year in tax cuts and pension increases that were designed to compensate families for the carbon tax. The vast bulk of detail remains to be seen, but Abbott has made a beginning on responsible budgeting.

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