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(Australian Associated Press)
Australians will find out if the federal books are already in the black when the final budget outcome for the past financial year is released on Thursday.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has promised an improved 2018/19 budget result – better than the $4.2 billion deficit he predicted in this year’s budget in April.
Economists expect that to mean the books will at least be in balance, if not already in a modest surplus.
“The reality is that tomorrow when we release the final budget outcome it will show an improvement on what was forecast not only in the 2018/19 budget, but also what was forecast in April this year,” Mr Frydenberg told parliament on Wednesday.
That means the predicted surplus of $7.1 billion in 2019/20 will also be higher.
But Labor questions how much the government can take credit for the result, given high iron ore prices, the lower Australian dollar, and an underspend in the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
“How much of the improvement in the budget position last year came from a spike in the iron ore price and the low dollar, which have absolutely nothing to do with actions of the government?” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers asked in Question Time.
“Let me remind the house that when Labor was last in office, that iron ore prices were over $180. Over $180 a tonne. More than double what they are today,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“And you know what? They still couldn’t deliver a surplus.”
Australia has not had a surplus since the 2007/08 budget, which came back $19.7 billion in the black.