COALITION communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has crashed into the economic debate, saying the Howard government made bad economic decisions in its final years, ones for which he accepts collective responsibility.
Asked which of the Howard government's decisions were bad, he said: ''This isn't the time or the place, nor would I be able to comprehensively chronicle them all, but I think most of us feel that. Peter Costello clearly does.
''The reality was inevitably the surpluses came in - in those last three years much bigger than forecast - so the government was presented with a lot more money at the eleventh hour, as it were.''
Mr Turnbull's view challenges the Coalition's formal position that it was its economic management that produced its repeated budget surpluses.
Mr Turnbull believes the Coalition should have banked much more of the income from the mining boom, perhaps by putting it in a wealth fund managed by the Future Fund. But he said the idea had become less attractive after ''the so-called Keating debt had been paid off''.
''I say this as somebody who has been part of a government and made collective decisions about spending. This is a behavioural economics perspective. From a political point of view my strong belief is that a new sovereign wealth fund would be very much in the spirit of the times, and would become a matter of real national pride.''
He also took issue with those on both sides of politics who want the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates in order to restrain the Australian dollar.
He compared it to the McMahon Coalition government of the early 1970s, whose ''repeated veto of the stronger dollar in 1971 and 1972 stoked runaway inflation''.
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