He says the measures contained in his Budget are about making the “right choices, to secure better days ahead.
But with tough welfare changes among his choices, this Budget may prove controversial.
In handing down his 2017/18 Budget, Treasurer Scott Morrison is appealing to Australians who are feeling the pinch.
“Small business owners have gone without to keep their businesses open. Australians have taken second jobs, where they can, so bills can be paid. And it’s been a fair while since most hardworking Australians have had a decent pay rise.”
Mr Morrison says this Budget seizes on clear signs that global economic conditions are improving.
But he notes that he’s had to abandon the so-called zombie measures – mostly those measures from Joe Hockey’s 2014 Budget – that the government was unable to pass through the parliament.
“Having exhausted every opportunity to secure savings from our 2014-15 and 2015-16 Budgets, we have decided to reset the Budget by reversing these measures at a cost of $13.5 billion. Despite this, I can confirm tonight that the Budget is projected to return to balance in 2021 and remain in surplus over the medium term.”
He says the underlying cash balance will improve from a forecast deficit of $29.4 billion in 2017-18 to a projected surplus of $7.4 billion in 2020-21.
The Treasurer says this Budget targets four main areas:
– Stronger growth to deliver “more and better-paying jobs”;
– Guaranteeing essential services;
– Easing cost of living pressures by improving access to affordable housing;
– And, ensuring the government lives within its means.
On stronger growth, he’s targeted one particular sector for special support:
“Small business owners are out there fighting for growth in their businesses every day. They deserve our respect and support.”
An Abbott government measure allowing small businesses to instantly deduct assets has been extended and there are incentives for state and territory governments to cut compliance paperwork requirements.
As for easing cost of living pressures for Australians:
“To support older Australians, we are restoring the pensioner concession card to those impacted by the pensions assets test change introduced earlier this year. As a result, they will regain access to State and Territory-based concessions that were withdrawn after the change.”
Mr Morrison also wants a fairer deal for bank customers:
“Tonight, I also announce a new six-basis point levy on the big banks’ liabilities, starting on July 1. This represents an additional and fair contribution from our major banks, is similar to measures imposed in other advanced countries, and will even up the playing field for smaller banks. The levy will only affect our five largest banks, with assessed liabilities of $100 billion or more, and does not apply to superannuation funds or insurance companies.”
He’s warned the banks not to pass the levy straight on to customers.
Bank executives will be required to register with industry regulator APRA, which will also be able to remove or disqualify executives.
There’ll also be a new Australian Financial Complaints Authority to provide a simpler, faster resolution of disputes.
Housing is a key area for change, with the government planning to introduce a new scheme allowing first-home buyers to save money within their superannuation funds.
While Australians aged over 65 can take up to $300,000 they save by downsizing to a smaller home, and put it into their superannuation fund.
The Budget also revealed new measures to restrict foreign investment in property.
Mr Morrison’s plan to keep the Turnbull government living within its means includes measures continuing to target multinational corporations that aren’t paying their fair share of tax.
But, in what may become the most controversial measures of the 2017 budget, he’s promised big changes to welfare.
“We will continue to stop people trying to take an easy ride on our welfare system, to protect it most importantly for those who need that safety net most. The best way to get your welfare budget under control is to get Australians off welfare and into work. The best form of welfare is a job.”
Thousands of young welfare recipients across three trial sites will be subjected to random drug testing.
A new welfare point system will be aimed at people who persistently dodge their job-seeking obligations.
Cashless welfare card trials will be extended for another year and expanded to two new locations over two years.
In addition, job seekers who fail the government’s proposed drug testing regime will be placed on the Cashless Debit Card system for their welfare payments.