Jobs focus of budget strategy

TURNING the next mining boom into jobs for all Australians by sharpening up workers’ skills and pushing those on welfare into the workforce is at the heart of Treasurer Wayne Swan’s fourth budget.

While the resources boom will deliver a $115 billion boost to Government coffers over the next three years to deliver a surplus in 2012/13, for the first time in almost a decade it did not include across-the-board tax cuts to ease the cost of living pressures.

Mr Swan said the $350 billion budget would power the economy on to create 500,000 jobs over the next three years.

“The core of this budget is about building a bigger and better trained workforce ... the centre piece of this budget is jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said.

A $3 billion training plan coupled with incentives and penalties to get more people off welfare and into work – including teen parents, the disabled and long-term unemployed – would ensure the nation did not “waste a single pair of capable hands,” the Treasurer said.

The larger-than-expected $22.6 billion deficit for 2011/12 is due to a diving tax take since the global financial crisis and the summer of natural disasters.

But the budget is expected to get back into the black to the tune of $3.5 billion in 2012/13.

The Government says it has done the hard yards on finding $22 billion in savings over the next three years, and keeping the rise in public spending to one per cent a year.

It’s found savings from extending the freeze on higher income limits for family payments for two more years, imposing the flood levy, deferring infrastructure projects and changing car fringe-benefit rules.

A $36 billion injection will provide new roads, railways and ports to capitalise on the boom, while super- annuation funds are likely to chip in more under the nation’s first national construction schedule.

An extra $20 billion will go into hospitals under a deal with the states to provide more information on how taxpayers’ money is spent, with $1.8 billion specially set aside for regional projects and $2.2 billion for a new mental health strategy.

In a foil to the independents, on whom the minority government relies, there is $4.3 billion for regional health care, universities and roads.