Australian gov't offers balanced budget just before election

By ROD McGUIRKFeaturesAssociated Press

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Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg addresses the media as he arrives at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Frydenberg said he will unveil Australia's first balanced annual budget plan in a decade days before general elections are called. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)

Australia's treasurer said he will unveil the government's first balanced annual budget plan in a decade days before general elections are called.

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The budget to be announced late Tuesday will be the conservatives coalition's final major act before going to voters in May with the argument that they are better economic managers than the center-left Labor Party opposition.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 would achieve a surplus without increasing taxes.

"Tonight's budget sets Australia up for the next decade," Frydenberg told reporters on arrival at Parliament House.

"It builds a stronger economy and secures a better Australia for every Australian and we do that without increasing taxes," he added.

Frydenberg also foreshadowed "congestion-busting infrastructure" to reduce commuting times in Australia's largest and most congested cities.

The government also plans to provide tax breaks for low and middle-income earners.

Up to 4 million low-income Australians in a population of 25 million will receive one-off payments by July to help with rising energy bills.

A conservative government delivered balanced budgets for a decade before the global financial crisis hit in 2008. A newly elected Labor government then ran up a record deficit with economic stimulus spending.

Australia's revenue has improved with rising prices for its biggest exports, coal and iron ore.

Opinion polls suggest that Labor will win the next election. Scott Morrison would become the sixth Australian prime minister since 2007 to fail to last an entire three-year term.

Parliament will sit for three days this week before it rises for the last time before elections are held on May 11 or May 18.