Morrison denies election budget slush fund

Scott Morrison has brushed off suggestions he has used the budget to build an election war chest.
Scott Morrison has brushed off suggestions he has used the budget to build an election war chest.

Scott Morrison has denied squirrelling away billions of dollars in the federal budget ahead of the next election.

But the prime minister has threatened Labor with an election fought over coronavirus if the opposition "plays politics" with his pandemic response.

The budget sets aside almost $10 billion for projects already signed off on by the federal cabinet but not yet announced, including $3.8 billion in the next year alone.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has accused the prime minister of funnelling money into a slush fund to splash on election commitments.

The government has also delivered a $75 billion big-spending budget, fuelling speculation it is preparing for a looming election.

The prime minister was repeatedly asked during his initial post-budget sales blitz whether he was preparing for an early poll.

But Mr Morrison said he was squarely focused on the battle against the pandemic this year.

"The only fight I'm focused on, the contest I'm focused on, is fighting this pandemic to ensure we can protect the lives and livelihoods of Australians," he said on Wednesday.

"I leave the politics to others. As I have said, the election is next year."

But the prime minister offered a caveat that things could change.

"I can't control every circumstance in Australian politics, but what I can do is stay focused on the fight that matters, and that's the pandemic," he said.

Mr Morrison accused Labor of undermining the national effort to fight coronavirus after the opposition questioned his inconsistent messaging on the speed of the vaccine rollout.

He warned: "I will let the Australian people judge them for that."

The prime minister also had a personal message for Mr Albanese.

"He may wish to fight me, but I'm fighting this virus on behalf of the Australian people."

Mr Albanese said the coalition had proven - through the sports rorts scandal and Western Sydney Airport land deal debacle - that it did not value taxpayers' money.

"They're not investing in the economy. They're investing in their own political fortunes in the short-term," he said.

Australian Associated Press