Treasurer Joe Hockey grilled by ABC's Sarah Ferguson on budget night

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has begun the hard sell of his tough first budget, sweating his way through the first of many post-budget interviews.

An unusually subdued Mr Hockey faced the ABC's Sarah Ferguson on 7.30 just moments after his budget speech.

Ms Ferguson gave him no reprieve, firing the first shot with her opening question: ‘‘Is it liberating for a politician to decide election promises don’t matter?’’

As he sat still in the opposite chair, hands clasped between his legs, Mr Hockey said he would not ‘‘accept the question’’.

"I don't accept that question. The biggest, most significant promise we made was to fix the budget and strengthen the Australian economy, and we will."

But the Treasurer soon freed his hands as he set about defending his government's first budget. A budget that included some controversial measures like the new Medicare co-payment.

‘‘What we’re doing is good policy,’’ he said.

But Ms Ferguson was relentless, orchestrating this abrasive exchange:

Hockey: ‘‘There are only two tax adjustments.’’

Ferguson: ‘‘Is that what we’re going to call them now?"

Hockey: ‘‘Of any substance, any tax changes, if you like, or whatever you’d like to call it.’’

Ferguson: ‘‘New taxes.’’

Hockey: ‘‘There’s two. There’s actually fewer than any of the previous budgets from the previous government.’’

Ferguson: ‘‘They’re still taxes. I don’t need to teach you, Treasurer, what a tax is.’’

Ms Ferguson grilled him on the government's decison to cut $80 billion from schools and hospitals over ten years.

"Are you starving the states so they beg you, effectively, to raise the GST?" she asked.

"That's up to them, they are responsible for schools and hospitals."

It might just have been an off night for the Treasurer. His speech in Parliament was also with a tired voice in a performance that fell short of his typically confident appearances in question time.

On Wednesday, Mr Hockey hit the airwaves, appearing on ABC's Radio National and AM, Sky News and commercial radio.

At 12.30pm he will speak in Parliament House's Great Hall in the traditional treasurer's post-budget address to the National Press Club.

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The story Treasurer Joe Hockey grilled by ABC's Sarah Ferguson on budget night first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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