Turnbull defends $48b tax cut

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ended the week on the back foot.

On what was likely the final day of parliamentary sittings before he called a double dissolution election, Mr Turnbull was defending his decision not to immediately reveal the full cost of his plan to cut company tax rates 5% - to 25% - by 2026.

Treasury Secretary John Fraser told Senate Estimates yesterday the full cost to the budget would be $48 billion over the decade.

He said he had been instructed by Treasurer Scott Morrison to tell Estimates the figure, just 24 hours after Mr Turnbull told Sky News it was unavailable, and then said it was modelled but not publicly released.

Mr Turnbull said yesterday it was appropriate for Treasury officials to be the ones discussing the detail of the policy, rather than him as the head of Australia's government.

He said it had "always been the case" that budgets only lay out the "forward estimates" - the budget year plus three years of forecasts - not full 10-year forecasts.

Mr Fraser also told Estimates it was standard practice at Treasury not to release such costings, but "on this occasion, the Treasurer has instructed me to do so".

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused Mr Turnbull of "lying" to the public about the cost of the cut.

On Thursday night in his budget reply speech, Mr Shorten laid out Labor's plans to save some $71 billion in the budget if elected at the mooted July 2 election.

He backed cutting company tax to 25% for businesses earning up to $2million a year, but no further, and keeping the "deficit levy" on high income earners - two measures that could retain $60 billion over 10 years - on top of other savings measures.

Mr Morrison slammed Labor's plan, saying it amounted to $100billion in "more taxes".

Both major parties have staked their claims to the public largely on economic management grounds and reducing the deficit.

Mr Turnbull is expected to call on the Governor-General tomorrow to ask for a double dissolution election on July 2.

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