Just three weeks out from his first budget and Treasurer Scott Morrison is knuckling down to the task.
He’s cleared his diary of distractions, sending Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer off to Washington in his place for this week’s G20 and International Monetary Fund meetings.
“As we prepare for the budget, this is where I need to be,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
He even had to cancel his weekly chat with Sydney’s 2GB radio host Ray Hadley, such is his busy schedule.
The treasurer expects the Washington meetings will generate more discussions about the softening global economy.
In contrast, he says the Australian economy continues to make the transition from the mining investment boom to a more diversified and strong economy.
“Despite the strong headwinds we face, I think the Australian people have good reason to have confidence in what they’re doing in our economy, and we want to continue to back them as we prepare for the budget,” Mr Morrison said.
But that doesn’t mean the treasurer is about to go on a lavish spending spree on May 3, even if it is an election year.
It will be calibrated to deliver jobs and growth and, like Australian businesses and families, the government will live within its means.
“It means that you don’t make promises for which there’s no money, it means that you keep your expenditure control tight, it means that you reduce your spending,” Mr Morrison said.
The treasurer avoided confirming suggestions the government is considering plans to back a high-speed rail link between Melbourne and Brisbane, saying such issues will be addressed in the budget.
It is looking at all innovative ways to support better infrastructure, such as value-capture funding that uses increased land value generated from major transport projects as a potential source of money.
The Greens have long argued for high-speed rail and are sceptical the idea will come to anything other than providing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with selfie opportunities on trains.
“High-speed rail seems to be the train that only runs in election years,” Greens MP Adam Bandt told ABC radio.