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Colin Brinsden and Paul Osborne
(Australian Associated Press)
Personal income tax cuts are meant to be a centrepiece of this year’s federal budget, but a new poll shows Australians view the cost of living, health and job creation as higher priorities.
The latest Essential poll published on Tuesday showed 51 per cent of voters rated addressing the cost of living as the number one priority for the federal government, with only 15 per cent mentioning income tax cuts.
Next priorities on the list were improving the health system, creating jobs and addressing housing affordability.
Reducing the budget deficit was a priority for 14 per cent of people, while cutting corporate tax was preferred by six per cent.
Asked about the main problem for cities, two-thirds of voters cited housing affordability, while 62 per cent said a lack of spending on roads and rail and a shortage of job opportunities.
Infrastructure is expected to be a focus of the May 8 budget.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to unveil hundreds of millions of dollars in spending on road and rail projects during a visit next week to Western Australia.
WA has loudly complained about being short-changed over its share of GST revenues.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten recently committed a Labor federal government to a $1.6 billion “Fair Share for WA” fund, pumping money into Perth and regional infrastructure.
Labor transport spokesman Anthony Albanese said government spending on infrastructure was due to halve as a proportion of GDP, from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent over the next decade.
“They simply haven’t done the work to create a pipeline of projects,” he said.
However, the government says its program includes about $50 billion in spending between 2013/14 and 2020/21, including a recently announced $5 billion for a Melbourne airport rail line and $1 billion for Queensland’s M1 motorway.
Liberal frontbencher Angus Taylor said what Australians wanted above all was economic leadership.
“(Voters) want a government that is wanting to drive jobs, helping to drive investment, at the same time living within our means,” Mr Taylor told Sky News.
The Australian Industry Group says cutting business taxes must remain a high priority for this budget.
Releasing a survey of large and small businesses, they put corporate tax cuts ahead of infrastructure spending, bringing the budget back to balance and measures to address current and future skilled shortages.
Ai Group’s chief executive Innes Willox said these priorities have been consistent over the past five years.
The survey found most industries rank the reduction of the business tax burden as either top or the second highest priority.
“This is an unambiguous expression of support for the government to stay on course with the proposed phase-down in the corporate tax rate over the coming decade,” Mr Willox said in a statement.
He said this should be the centrepiece of a program of far-reaching and comprehensive tax measures, including personal tax reform targeted to lower and middle-income households.