Finance Minister Penny Wong says the federal government remains committed to returning the budget to surplus in 2012/13 as it is “responsible” for the Australian economy overall.
Treasury has forecast an underlying cash balance of a $3.1 billion surplus in 2012/13 despite the fiscal deficit for the current financial year expected to be worse than the forecast $41.5 billion.
With the natural disasters in Australia and Japan set to slow national economic growth by up to one percentage point, to 2.25 per cent in 2010/11, the government has said a $13 billion revenue shortfall was expected for this year.
The budget timeline back to a surplus in 2012/13 was important for the economy, Ms Wong said.
“I don’t believe it is only a political objective. It is an economic objective and a responsible one,” Ms Wong told ABC Television on Monday.
Ms Wong said there were short-term challenges, such as a drop in revenue and a softness in the economy.
“The high dollar, the cautious consumer, obviously, people are saving more now.
Those things are impacting in the short term and that is the experience of people out there,” she said.
But the immediate weakness in several sectors of the economy, such as retail, tourism and manufacturing, had to be balanced against the investment boom, particularly in the resources sector, as it gathers apace, Ms Wong said.
Official data showed in February that the first estimate for capital spending and investment for 2011/12 was $132 billion, an increase of 30.3 per cent on the previous year.
Mining investment was responsible for 54.8 per cent of that increase.
“We have a very large wave of investment coming into this country,” she said.
“Maybe people out there not connected with the mining industry might not have much reality for them.
“We have to look at the whole economy and we know that investment wave is coming and in that context it is the right thing to do.”