Budget focus sidelined for a day

Joe Hockey will switch his focus from his budget for at least a day when he releases a new blueprint for Australia’s financial system.


Whether the response to the treasurer’s final financial system inquiry report will be less hostile than it has been to his first budget remains to be seen.

But there will be winners and losers.

Review chair David Murray, the former Commonwealth Bank boss and inaugural Future Fund chief, and his team have been working on the project for nearly a year.

One of the report’s many focuses is containing credit card surcharges.

“It means that consumers will get the benefit of some of the changes that we will be initiating,” Mr Hockey told Seven’s Sunrise program on Friday.

The review panel received more than 6500 submissions after its interim report in July, 5000 touching on credit card surcharges.

Consumer advocate group Choice says businesses, particularly in hospitality and entertainment, have long been gouging consumers.

The treasurer will release the report on Sunday, but will undertake more consultations before responding to its recommendations, probably in mid-2015.

In the meantime, he’s putting the final touches to his mid-year budget review, due within weeks.

Billions of dollars worth of May budget measures remain stuck in the Senate, while revenues have been hit by soft economic growth and falling commodity prices.

Even so, the government’s latest financial statement on Friday shows the 2014/15 budget deficit is running about $1.5 billion smaller than expected as of October.

As of October it was $22.3 billion, rather than the $23.9 billion forecast after four months.

It’s estimated at $29.8 billion for the full financial year.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the government isn’t about to run around like “headless chooks” and suddenly change its plan, but will look for more efficiency savings rather than big cuts.

Mr Hockey drew comfort from the government’s late-night win in the Senate that passed a suite of migration laws, saying it shows contentious legislation takes time to clear.

“We have a steely determination to have a credible pathway back to surplus,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Hockey should be handing down a mini-budget.

“They should demonstrate how they are going for growth, not try and make election breaking promises and cuts,” he told reporters.