The federal opposition has accused the government of leaking treasury figures to soften the blow before the May budget is handed down.
Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey on Saturday accused Treasurer Wayne Swan of leaking confidential figures showing a $13 billion fall in economic growth this financial year that could force drastic cuts to the government’s May budget.
Mr Swan will announce forecast growth of just 2.25 per cent, much lower than the 3.25 per cent forecast in November and below the 2.5 per cent canvassed in budget meetings just weeks ago, Fairfax newspapers reported.
The weaker outlook means Mr Swan will be under greater pressure to find budget cuts to offset revenue losses in 2011-12.
“The guy that’s leaked the treasury figures is the Treasurer himself,” Mr Hockey told Macquarie Radio.
“This is part of the traditional Labor softening up before a budget and quite frankly it’s like Groundhog Day.
“You can’t believe anything this government says.”
With three and a half weeks until the budget, Treasurer Wayne Swan says this one will be just as difficult as the other three he has tabled.
Mr Swan has repeatedly said the May 10 budget will be tough and there’s speculation it will include cuts to medical research and an overhaul of the welfare system to encourage more people into work.
Australian Greens leader Bob Brown has already signalled there will be thorough scrutiny from his party with changes at the margins if needed, but says the Greens won’t block the federal budget.
With the Australian economy worth $1.3 trillion a year, a one per cent fall in growth amounts to a $13 billion hit, Fairfax says.
It also shows Australia’s economy was hit harder by the January floods and cyclone and Japan’s tsunami and nuclear disaster than previously believed.