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  • 9 May 2018

Treasurer Scott Morrison delivers his budget speech to parliamentImage copyright EPA
Image caption Treasurer Scott Morrison delivers his budget speech to parliament

The Australian government has delivered an annual budget that prioritises tax cuts, aged care spending and a schedule for returning the economy to surplus.

The budget is expected to be PM Malcolm Turnbull’s last before he seeks re-election, likely to be next year.

As its centrepiece, the budget sets out tax relief for low and middle income earners.

Political opponents said they would support some measures, but criticised others as “a mirage”.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said: “The economy is improving and all Australians should share in that.”

Here are five things that the budget sets out.

1. Tax cuts in the short term, and plans for more

From next year, people earning between A$ 37,000 (£20,000; $ 27,000) and A$ 90,000 will receive annual savings of A$ 200-A$ 530.

Then from 2024, a majority of Australians will be taxed at the same rate of 32.5% – maintaining the current level for some, and reducing tax for others.

Mr Morrison said the changes would make Australians better off and help to stimulate the economy.

But the Labor opposition said it was irresponsible to make assumptions about economic conditions years in advance. It said the policy was not guaranteed to be enacted in 2024.

2. Providing for Australia’s ageing population

The budget allocates an extra A$ 1.6bn for elderly Australians to receive care at home, and to boost palliative care.

Additionally, retirees will be able to earn more without their pension payments being reduced by taxation.

According to the most recent official data, the number of Australians at retirement age increased by 664,500 between 2011 and 2016.


Gift for voters

Hywel Griffith, BBC News Sydney correspondent

This will probably be the final budget before a federal election, so it’s time to send the voters some presents.

With the government wanting to be seen to live within its means, bigger, more expensive measures could have been counter-productive.

And so it hopes these changes will be just enough to persuade people to stick with the conservative coalition, and elect it to a third term.


3. An updated timetable towards a surplus

Although it avoided a recession after the global financial crisis, Australia has been in deficit for more than a decade.

The nation is one of 10 to hold a triple-A credit rating, although its outlook is “negative” according to agency Standard & Poor’s.

Image copyright Getty Images

The budget forecasts a return to the black in 2019-20, when the government predicts a surplus of A$ 2.2bn.

However, some say the government should reduce debt more quickly.

PricewaterhouseCoopers chief economist Jeremy Thorpe described the budget as a “lost opportunity to really address and further advance the paying down of debt, to save that burden on our future generations”.

4. Boosts to airport security and intelligence

Almost A$ 300m will go towards expanding police resources at major airports, as well as improving security scans at regional airports and for inbound cargo.

The nation’s foreign spy agency, Australian Secret Intelligence Service, will also receive an undisclosed injection in funding.

Australia will spend an additional A$ 306.5m on fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, an operation which has so far cost more than A$ 1bn.

5. Efforts to help the Great Barrier Reef

Australia has pledged A$ 500m to protect the World Heritage site, which has lost 30% of its coral in recent years due to rising sea temperatures and ocean predators.

The money will go towards improving agricultural run-off, water quality and programmes that target crown-of-thorns starfish.

The funding, announced a week ahead of the budget, has been widely welcomed. However, scientists have also criticised the Australian government and others by arguing that more money should be spent on reducing climate change.

BBC News – Asia

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