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Labor lifts and Abbott has to shift

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Chief Political Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald

View more articles from Lenore Taylor

Labor's national secretary, George Wright, says Australian politics has entered the ''post-carbon'' phase. Labor is back in a ''contestable'' position and the disastrous electoral impact of the tax is over.

Tony Abbott wouldn't admit it - but he seems to think so, too. He mentioned electricity bill rises to hit his small-business-backdrop-of-the-day on Monday (a Harley-Davidson dealership) but admitted it was not all the tax's fault.

A ''post carbon'' world presents problems for Abbott. His answer to the tax was to ''axe'' it.

His latest attack is that the government won't deliver its promised budget surplus. Many economists agree. Abbott says he would deliver a surplus, every year. But no slogan can sum up the complications in that pledge.

He must account for abolishing the carbon and mining taxes, but keep some of the policies they pay for, his paid parental leave plan, the Direct Action plan on climate change and other promises.

Abbott says his sums will add up because he will increase productivity, which he might, but certainly not in time to have an impact on the first Hockey budget.

On Friday, Wright told Labor's national executive its vote had returned to near where it was early last year, when the government announced the carbon tax deal, and Abbott's ratings had slumped to ''pre-carbon'' levels. Labor strategists concede the ''trust'' legacy of the broken promise remains.

But the carbon tax gift has stopped giving, and Labor is unlikely to offer another.

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