Budget surplus: unlikely

Date

4BC Drive: The federal government has conceded it's unlikely to deliver on its promised budget surplus this financial year, in the wake of a big drop in tax revenues.

Figures released on Thursday showed financial year-to-date company tax payments were much lower than expected, reflecting falling commodity prices and continued weakness in the global economy.

Photo Gallery: What did they say about the 2012/2013 surplus

The Finance Department's monthly statement showed total cash receipts for 2012/13 so far totalled $111.6 billion at the end of October, down almost $4 billion on expectations.

"That's a really big hit to revenue, it's a huge whack to revenue," Treasurer Wayne Swan told reporters in Canberra.

The budget had been hit by a "sledgehammer", threatening Labor's promised $1.1 billion surplus, he said.

"Dramatically lower tax revenue now makes it unlikely that there will be a surplus in 2012/13," Mr Swan said.

Overall, the budget is so far running at a deficit of $12.3 billion, the new figures show. However, Mr Swan refused to speculate on how big it will ultimately be.

"It's too early," he said.

"We will make a thorough assessment in the new year, we'll methodically work through all the data as it emerges."

Mr Swan emphasised that the worsening in the government's budget bottom line was due to revenue falls rather than increased government spending.

He vowed to continue to exercise spending restraint, even in the face of more volatility and uncertainty in the global economy.

"I'm not loosening the purse strings," he said.

Mr Swan says about $160 billion has been ripped from the budget bottom line over the last five years, and much of that has been since 2010 when the government started talking about delivering a 2012/13 surplus.

"So through this whole period we have kept making responsible savings to fill what has been an emerging and growing revenue hole," he said.

"But things are a bit different now and that's the main point I want to make today.

"At this stage I don't think it would be responsible to cut harder or further in 2012/13 to fill a hole in the tax system if that puts jobs or growth at risk."

Mr Swan conceded the government was likely to take a big political hit over the broken promise but was unrepentant.

"If the worst thing people say is we got the economics right again but fell short on the politics, I would say, so be it," he said.

"At the end of the day I don't care about the political outcomes, I care about the economic outcomes."

Mr Swan said the resources industry was being hit by both lower prices for commodities and the high Australian dollar and the impact was "cascading throughout the economy".

The government now plans to reassess the state of the global economy in the new year "with a fresh set of eyes".

"There's a bit of a pathway through the global economy over the next couple of months," he added.

"It would be good to get some sight of that before we come back and have a much more informed and thorough analysis of the outlook."

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