Abbott more frugal with the message

TONY Abbott today will lower expectations of what extra spending he will promise for the election, as he seeks to counter claims that his expensive programs would harm the economy.

TONY Abbott today will lower expectations of what extra spending he will promise for the election, as he seeks to counter claims that his expensive programs would harm the economy.

Mr Abbott will spell out already flagged "signature" policies and say that besides these and a very few "hyper deserving cases" such as military superannuation, "the Coalition will promise very little new or increased spending at the next election".

The Coalition remains committed to the signature policies it took to the 2010 election, he will say in his speech to the Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

There will be direct action to improve the environment and reduce emissions, including a green army for land care.

A Coalition government would work with the states to produce community-controlled public schools and public hospitals. It would also offer incentives to employers who took on long-term unemployed young people and seniors on welfare.

"We will reform the welfare system to strengthen the motivation to work," he will say.

"There will be a modest company tax cut and a fair-dinkum paid parental leave scheme that gives mothers six months off at their actual pay, funded by a modest levy on Australia's 3000 most profitable companies." Earlier this week he guaranteed the scheme would be introduced in a Coalition government's first term.

Mr Abbott will say that in many portfolios, the Coalition's pitch to voters "will rest more on less regulation than on more spending".

"The absence of a shopping list of new spending should help to keep the focus on the big issues, especially the carbon tax which will swing like a wrecking ball through the Australian economy. Eliminating the carbon tax is a fundamental structural reform as well as a massive tax cut, especially when coupled with lower personal taxes."

Mr Abbott yesterday went on the attack over his parental leave scheme, which has come under criticism from some in his own party, who think it too generous, as well as from the government.

"I say to the Prime Minister, why is she standing in the way of progress for Australian women? Why isn't she prepared to own up to the fact that her paid parental leave scheme is simply a rebadged baby bonus?"

Mr Abbott declared that the policy "is going to be one of the defining marks of my leadership of the Coalition". Parental leave was a workplace entitlement, not a welfare payment, and that was why it had to be paid at someone's ordinary wage.

"People don't go on holiday and get paid a welfare allowance. People don't get paid a welfare allowance if they have to take sick leave."

Asked about his industrial relations intentions, he said: "What you can expect from us are cautious, careful, responsible reforms that will address the proven problems in the existing system. We will tackle the flexibility problem, we will tackle the militancy problem and we will tackle the productivity problem, but we will do it in ways that will respect the rights of Australians to a free and fair workplace."