TREASURER Joe Hockey has signalled an early release of the Commission of Audit's findings, and argued the public needs to understand the magnitude of the task facing the government if it is going to support the necessary budget cuts.
In an interview with The Australian Financial Review, Mr Hockey said the government hoped to adopt the "great majority" of recommendations in the audit and would include savings in the May 13 budget in addition to those recommended by the audit.
He stressed cuts would not be driven by necessity not ideology.
"We are doing it because if we do not do it, then our lifestyle is not sustainable as a nation," he said.
"We cannot (any) longer rely on the land, through minerals and agriculture in particular, or the heavy lifting done by previous generations of manufacturing," Mr Hockey said.
"We can no longer rely on that to sustain our quality if life in the future."
Mr Hockey said he would not be distracted by short-term volatility that has roiled financial markets, as he frames a budget aimed at tackling structural challenges facing the economy such as the ageing population.
"We can't be sidetracked by the volatility of equities markets, the volatility of bond markets or currency,'' he said. "They'll find their natural market point."
Amid debate within government over when to release the Commission of Audit, which is likely to propose deep cuts to programs, Mr Hockey emphasised no final decision would be made until the government had received the report. He said his inclination, and that of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, was to release it sooner than later to enable "a properly informed debate''.
Two weeks ago the government said it wouldn't release the audit's interim or final findings before the budget, prompting experts to warn the decision would make it harder to build political support for tough cuts.
There is an awareness in government that Labor's failure to make the case for many of its major policies before announcing them, such as the mining tax, led to their unpopularity.
"The first thing, in my view, is we've got to be very familiar with the recommendations, understand the ramifications for the government,'' Mr Hockey said Tuesday.
"The community also needs to be aware of why we are going down the path of change. It's not properly understood at the moment.
"The Prime Minister and I would like to see the Commission of Audit help to explain why we need to undertake the change and that includes dealing with not just what we inherited but some of the demographic changes that Australia faces and the changes in the domestic economy.''
This week, following the decision to deny SPC Ardmona (SPCA) $25 million in assistance and demands from the Nationals for drought relief, Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott ramped up their pre-budget warnings that the "age of entitlement" was over.
On Tuesday, SPCA hit back at government claims that renegotiating its industrial relations arrangements were the key to solving its financial woes, noting the total cost of allowances for all production staff in 2013 were $116,467, which represented less than 0.1 per cent of the business's cost of goods for the year.
Liberal MP Sharman Stone, who fought for the money to be handed over, accused Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey of lying.
Mr Hockey said the SPCA decision was about establishing an important principle. "It neatly fits in with what we are saying around the globe in the year of our leadership of the G20,'' he said.
"Most governments everywhere have run out of money and a private sector that is awash in money needs to start doing the heavy lifting and the private sector is individuals as well as corporates,'' he said.
The Commission of Audit will submit an interim report to the government at the end of next week. Its final report is due by March 31.
It will be used by the government as the basis for taking the axe to spending at the May budget.
Mr Hockey said the only areas immune from cuts would be those promised before the election and this was important because the government needed to offer stability as well.
He declined to endorse an assurance given last month by Families Minister Kevin Andrews that the aged pension would be off limits in terms of the family home being factored into the assets test.
"I'm not sure that he said that but I can't comment on what other people said,'' Mr Hockey said.
On the Commission of Audit, Mr Hockey said: "Not everything they recommend we will accept, but we want to be in a position where we are able to proceed with, hopefully, the great majority of recommendations.
"I'm sure there will be additional things that we might want to put into the budget that go well beyond the Commission of Audit as well, but I don't want to pre-empt the budget.''