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We will show budget restraint: Morrison

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April 18, 2018

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack has compared budget spending to Christmas presents.

Labor has seized on Treasurer Scott Morrison playing down Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack's suggestion he will be Santa at budget time.

Mr Morrison dismissed the Nationals leader's description of him as "Scott 'Santa Claus' Morrison" who would deliver goodies in the May budget.

While Mr McCormack says he doesn't regret his enthusiasm, he didn't repeat the festive analogy after the treasurer knocked the characterisation on the head.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was amazing the pair were disagreeing so soon after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull jetted off to Europe.

"It doesn't show a lot of respect for the Australian people when politicians cynically describe the taxpayer money they use as presents from Santa," Mr Shorten said.

The Labor leader said the government had an obligation to spend money in the national interest, rather than as a method to boost popularity.

"The money that you spend in the budget is taxpayer money. You are not Santa Claus or any other mythical person," Mr Shorten said.

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack also appeared to say the federal government will pay off its massive debt by 2021.

"(Mr Morrison's) looking forward, as he says, to producing a fiscally responsible budget. He's looking forward to getting this nation back on track, so that by 2021 we've paid down Labor's debt," he told reporters in Mildura.

Debt stands at $523 billion. The government has targeted 2021 for turning the budget deficit into a surplus.

That prompted shadow treasurer Chris Bowen to attack Mr McCormack's "torrid" start as acting prime minister.

"Firstly he and Scott Morrison couldn't agree on who was Santa and when Christmas was," Mr Bowen said.

"Then in Mildura today we've seen the acting prime minister, in the finest traditions of the Country and National Parties, demonstrate how little knowledge he has on how budgets operate."

Mr Turnbull is in the UK for a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

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