Joe Hockey: No way are we putting a date on the surplus

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Treasurer Joe Hockey says the government “has never put a date” on returning the budget to surplus. Photo: Andrew Meares Treasurer Joe Hockey says the government “has never put a date” on returning the budget to surplus. Photo: Andrew Meares
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Treasurer Joe Hockey says the government “has never put a date” on returning the budget to surplus. Photo: Andrew Meares

Treasurer Joe Hockey says the government “has never put a date” on returning the budget to surplus. Photo: Andrew Meares

Treasurer Joe Hockey has declared the government “has never put a date” on returning to a budget surplus, arguing that the Coalition just needs to show a “quality trajectory” back to black instead.

Just weeks before he hands down his second budget, Mr Hockey said that the government would deliver a surplus “as soon as possible” but declined to name a specific date.

“We never put a date on returning to surplus,” he told the ABC’s Insiders program.

“We just need to show we have a quality trajectory … back to surplus.”

Before the 2013 federal election and based on the budget numbers at the time, Mr Hockey pledged to deliver a surplus in the Coalition’s first year in office and “every year after that”.

The Coalition has since backed away from the claim, however, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a Coalition meeting last month that the budget would be back in balance within five years.

Mr Hockey said on Sunday that the government was “aiming at” smaller deficits.

“You will see the numbers on budget night.

“The numbers do show that, as a percentage of GDP, we are reducing deficits to the point where we can get it back to surplus.”

Last week, an estimate from JP Morgan put the budget deficit for 2014/15 at $45 billion, a $5 billion increase from the mid-year economic update released by the government in December.

Amid a tumbling iron ore price, JP Morgan also estimated a $35 billion deficit for 2015/16.

This comes comes as the Abbott government ruled out major superannuation changes in the budget, further limiting options to rein in the deficit.

Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg​ told Fairfax Media that super was safe, noting “I don’t think you should be expecting any big changes in the budget”.  The government has also recently ruled out changes to negative gearing.

On Sunday, Mr Hockey also announced that that Australia and Great Britain had agreed to work together to combat multinational tax avoidance.

Following a G20 meeting in Washington DC, Mr Hockey said that he and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne had agreed to set up a working group to “address the diversion of profits by multinational enterprises away from their host countries”.

Mr Hockey said that while Australian would not be mirroring Britain’s new so-called “Google tax”, the two countries would “lead the world” on the issue.

Labor seized on the announcement, describing it as “all talk, no action”.

“With all the resources of government at his disposal, the best Joe Hockey can do is come up with a plan to have a plan,” Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh said in a statement.

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