Aussie PM eyes tax cuts to win over voters

SYDNEY • Flagging in the polls and facing a rout in the May general election, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison looked to shore up support yesterday, dangling the prospect of A$9 billion (S$8.9 billion) worth of tax cuts.

"We support lower taxes," said treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister Josh Frydenberg, touting "important" tax decisions ahead.

A mid-year budget released on Monday showed the government running a smaller deficit than expected and a possible surplus next year. That amounts to a much-needed A$9.25 billion election war chest for Mr Morrison.

His conservative coalition is 10 points behind in the polls and is facing a thumping loss to centre-left Labor, according to a recent Newspoll survey.

Hoping for a little Christmas cheer to improve his sagging fortunes, Mr Morrison looks almost certain to dole out the goodies to sceptical voters.

The government did not spell out what the tax cuts could be, but they were budgeted for in the fine print of the plan under "decisions taken but not yet announced".

"This is tax cuts (or possibly spending measures) due to be announced between now and next year's election," said Westpac economist Andrew Hanlan.

Experts said the smaller deficit was thanks to higher tax revenues stemming from stronger growth and higher commodity prices.

Australia's economy has been growing steadily for decades, but has started to slow amid trade disputes between China and the United States, and domestic pressures.

A date for the election has not yet been set but it is widely expected by May next year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2018, with the headline 'Aussie PM eyes tax cuts to win over voters'. Print Edition | Subscribe