Turn­bull rules out largesse in May Bud­get

Kalgoorlie Miner - - NEWS - Can­berra

Don’t ex­pect a fist­ful of dol­lars in the May Bud­get or from the coali­tion dur­ing an elec­tion cam­paign likely a few months later.

That is the mes­sage from Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull, who in­sists the Govern­ment in­tends to make pru­dent sav­ings “right across the board” as it grap­ples with a Bud­get deficit and ris­ing debt.

The mes­sage runs counter to what Aus­tralians have come to ex­pect from elec­tion-year Bud­gets from gov­ern­ments seek­ing re-elec­tion.

In­stead, Mr Turn­bull played down ex­pec­ta­tions of new spend­ing, es­pe­cially in light of a speech by Trea­sury boss John Fraser.

Mr Fraser said Aus­tralia could not af­ford to be com­pla­cent about its triple-A credit rat­ing, some­thing held by only nine other coun­tries.

The rat­ing was de­pen­dent on cred­i­ble fis­cal con­sol­i­da­tion and a smooth tran­si­tion to a more di­verse econ­omy, he warned.

The prime min­is­ter and Trea­surer Scott Mor­ri­son both dis­missed in­ter­pre­ta­tions of Mr Fraser’s com­ments that sug­gested the rat­ing was in jeop­ardy un­less ur­gent ef­forts were made to cut spend­ing.

Mr Fraser said the Govern­ment needed to re­tain a triple-A rank­ing to en­sure it could ser­vice a Com­mon­wealth debt in­ter­est bill run­ning at just over $1 bil­lion a month.

That fig­ure was pro­jected to more than dou­ble in the decade un­less ac­tion was taken.

Mr Turn­bull said the three main credit agen­cies had given a tick of ap­proval to the Govern­ment’s midyear Bud­get re­view and its plan to re­turn to a fis­cal bal­ance.

“But we’ve got to do so in a mea­sured way. We have to do so in a way that drives growth,” he said.

The fac­tor that was most im­por­tant in bring­ing the Bud­get back into bal­ance over the long term was strong eco­nomic growth.

Mr Turn­bull ac­knowl­edged Govern­ment debt was too high and that it was be­ing driven up by con­tin­ued deficits.

“What we are seek­ing to do is to rein that back in by mak­ing pru­dent sav­ings right across the board,” he said.

“Wher­ever we can find a means of do­ing so, and get­ting the right pol­icy bang for a smaller tax­payer buck, we will do so.”

Mr Turn­bull also com­mit­ted the coali­tion to a tight Bud­get and not turn­ing the elec­tion into a “fist­ful of dol­lars” cam­paign.

There is a pos­si­bil­ity the Govern­ment will in­tro­duce tax changes in the May Bud­get but ma­jor re­forms will be left to an elec­tion man­date.

Mr Turn­bull in­di­cated again the Govern­ment will run a full term, rather than go to the polls in the first half of this year.

Op­po­si­tion Leader Bill Shorten said the coun­try was lack­ing eco­nomic lead­er­ship.

“What we will do is make sure we put Aus­tralian jobs at the heart of all our poli­cies,” he said. AAP

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