This is a Budget for uncertain times – balancing relief, repair and restraint – in the face of darkening economic storm clouds with domestic growth expected to slow to 1.5 percent by the end of the year – no recession yet but the risks are growing.
LISTEN TO MY INITIAL TAKE ON THE BUDGET WRITTEN INSIDE THE "LOCKUP"
The Canberra spin - is all about a $4.2 billion surplus – if it eventuates. But even Treasurer Jim Chalmers concedes it's a one-off warning that deficits will be back in a flash to fund Medicare, the NDIS, and defence.
Elements of good luck and good management have snagged windfall gains from more people in the workforce and the world's appetite for Australian commodities boosting Treasury coffers – with iron ore, coal and gas coming to the rescue once again.
But there's no traditional fistful of dollars with the gains going to the budget bottom line – though $15 billion of targeted relief going to households Australians hurting from record high energy bills and rising interest rates.
More good news - wages growth is tipped to rise to 4 percent next year (once again more taxes and more bracket creep) meaning another revenue boost is likely.
Former Treasury official Stephen Anthony says it's a steady no frills budget – but thinks it's a missed opportunity for real action on "budget repair".
While Jim Chalmers maintains the handouts won't fuel inflation, Stephen Anthony says it lays the groundwork for more Reserve Bank rate rises
Meanwhile the debt bomb (which finances the deficit) continues to tick - with gross debt on track to exceed a trillion dollars in a few years.
This budget pays down some of the debt but the pressure is on to reduce it to even faster with interest payments of $60 million a day now one of the single biggest costs the Federal government will confront for years maybe decades to come.
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