Australia to raise $353b national debt ceiling before Christmas

CANBERRA (REUTERS) - Australia's new conservative government will introduce laws to lift its current A$300 billion (S$353 billion) debt ceiling to head off concerns Australia could reach its limit before Christmas, Treasurer Joe Hockey said on Friday.

In his first full media conference as Treasurer, Mr Hockey said the legislation would be one of four key legislative packages for the new government, which swept into power at elections on Sept 7, ending six years of turbulent Labor rule.

In a pre-election budget update, Australia's Treasury forecast the face value of outstanding Australian government securities would reach its A$300 billion limit by December 2013 before falling back to around A$290 billion by June 30, 2014.

"The debt limit is an issue we are dealing with now," Mr Hockey told reporters.

"We have to increase the debt limit, because I'm advised we will go extremely close to the debt limit of A$300 billion before Christmas. Labor refused to deal with it. We will deal with it."

In its pre-election budget and economic update, Treasury forecast the face value of government securities would peak at A$350 billion in April 2015, and then A$370 billion in April 2016, ending at A$370 billion by June 30, 2017.

Parliament is expected to hold its first sittings under conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott in late October, giving the new government up to six weeks to pass the new debt limit.

Mr Abbott has promised his first bill in parliament will be laws to scrap a controversial carbon tax, as well as legislation to abolish a tax on iron ore and coal mines, and laws to shut down a A$10 billion fund to finance clean energy projects.