SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday (Nov 27) his government will deliver its annual Budget early as it prepares for an election due by May, but suffered an immediate setback when one of his MPs said she was quitting his party.
Mr Morrison said his conservative Liberal-National coalition government would deliver Australia's first Budget surplus since 2007/2008. The new Budget year begins July 1.
Mr Morrison said the Budget would be delivered on April 2, about a month earlier than usual.
His government must call an election by May and opinion polls suggest the coalition is on course for a heavy defeat by the Labor opposition.
"It will be a surplus Budget. It will be a Budget which is the product of the years of hard work of our government," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
The promise of a healthy Budget comes as Mr Morrison seeks to repair his government's standing with voters, who were angered by a party-room revolt in August that ousted former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The toppling of Mr Turnbull pushed the government into minority when it lost Mr Turnbull's seat, normally a Liberal stronghold, in a by-election this month after the former premier quit politics. That minority status came into effect on Monday.
Already relying on the support of independent lawmakers to progress his legislative agenda, Mr Morrison suffered another major blow on Tuesday when backbench MP Julia Banks said she was quitting the Liberal party immediately to sit as an independent.
The Liberals are the senior partner in the governing coalition.
Ms Banks said she was quitting the party of over disunity, its treatment of women and its policies on energy and climate change.
However, she also said she would support the government on matters of confidence and supply until the election.