Treasurer Joe Hockey believes if he had cut the budget any harder it would have detracted from already sub-par economic growth.
Treasurer Joe Hockey says he is not going to fall into the trap of his Labor predecessor and make “heroic promises” about a budget surplus.
But he believes he could have gone much harder in his first budget.
This may shock Australians who will face the pinch from cuts and savings made over the next four years to help deliver a relatively tiny deficit in 2017/18.
But the economy is forecast to grow at below the trend rate of 3.25 per cent up to 2015/16, and the jobless rate is set to rise to 6.25 per cent.
“If we had have gone harder it (the budget) would have contracted from growth,” the treasurer told reporters during Tuesday’s federal budget lock-up.
Business gave the budget the thumbs up, but the Labor opposition said it was a document built on “mass deceit”.
“The Australian people have been hit with a budget of broken promises, cruel cuts and unfair increases in the cost of living,” shadow treasure Chris Bowen said.
Mr Hockey has tried to spread the burden of repairing the budget, from tightening family benefits to imposing a temporary levy on high income earners.
From charging a co-payment of $7 when visiting the doctors, to reintroducing indexation on fuel prices for the first time in 13 years.
The government will also cut $845 million of assistance programs to business, but it will cut the corporate tax rate by 1.5 per cent in 2015 as promised to make industry more competitive in the global economy.
The new boss of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Kate Carnell said it was the budget Australia had to have.
“The budget goes a long way to restoring all-important business confidence that will drive investment and job creation,” Ms Carnell said.
But Tax Institute’s board member Tim Neilson said the government has attempted to tackle the budget problem through expenditure without committing to a timeline in which to address the other crucial half of the equation – revenue.
He said the budget was a missed opportunity to set a promised tax review in process.
Economic growth is expected to be lower in the 2014/15 financial year at 2.5 per cent, against 2.75 per cent this year.
It won’t pick up until after 2016, and only to 3.5 per cent, as the economy continues to transition from the mining investment boom to broader based growth.
Mr Hockey has further ratcheted up the budget deficit to $50 billion for this financial year, the second highest on record in dollar terms, and from $47 billion in the December mid-year budget review.
But he’s forecast a narrowing in the later years, with deficits of $29.8 billion in 2014/15 and just $2.8 billion in 2017/18.
The government is aiming for a sustainable budget surplus of one per cent of gross domestic product by 2023/24 – which is almost 10 years away.
Mr Hockey told Sky News he was not going down the path of former Labor treasurer Wayne Swan and making “big heroic promises”.
“There is much work to be done, it is unfinished business,” he said.