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Australia’s Finance Minister Says Budget Focus on Boosting Jobs

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Australia's Finance Minister Penny Wong
Australia's Finance Minister Penny Wong in Sydney. Photographer: Jack Atley/Bloomberg

May 14 (Bloomberg) -- Australia’s Finance Minister Penny Wong said this week’s budget was aimed at boosting jobs growth as the government stays committed to returning the country’s finances to a surplus.

“It’s a budget all about jobs, about creating jobs, about training more Australians for jobs,” Wong told reporters in Brisbane today. “We put a forward a budget that has us back in the black. That’s positive policy.”

Wong dismissed suggestions the measures outlined by Treasurer Wayne Swan on May 10 are already proving unpopular with voters, less than a month after a survey showed public approval of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor government was at a 15-year low.

The government unveiled its budget on May 10, committing to end 23 years of spending growth to ease inflation from a mining boom. It plans A$22.2 billion ($23.5 billion) in savings over the next four years to deliver a A$3.5 billion surplus in 2012-13, an election year.

Public support for Labor fell to a 15-year low last month, according to a survey that showed most voters opposed Gillard’s plan to tax carbon emissions. The Nielsen poll was published in the Age newspaper on April 18.

Wong avoided questions about a poll in today’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that showed fewer than a third of Australians thought the budget was good for the country. The newspaper didn’t say how many people were polled or reveal the margin of error for the survey.

“The only numbers I’m focused on are the 500,000 jobs that will be created in the years ahead and getting the budget back into black by 2012-13 as we promised,” Wong said today.

Mining Investment

The government has forecast economic growth will accelerate to 4 percent in the year to June 30, 2012, from 2.25 percent in the prior 12 months. Driving this will be a mining investment spree totaling A$76 billion next fiscal year, spurring companies to hire workers and prompting the government to predict a drop in the unemployment rate to 4.5 percent by mid-2013.

Australia recorded its biggest annual job growth on record last year and employers added 37,800 workers in March, more than economists forecast, led by hiring in the mineral- and energy-rich states of Western Australia and Queensland.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shani Raja in Sydney at sraja4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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