And so it begins — the budget tonight is more of an election campaign launch. Picture: AAP
And so it begins — the budget tonight is more of an election campaign launch. Picture: AAP

FEDERAL BUDGET: Election campaign begins tonight

TONIGHT is about much more than the federal budget for the next year.

It marks the unofficial start of the election campaign, when Prime Minister Scott Morrison will unveil the sales pitch he'll deliver to Australia over the coming month.

Hordes of journalists are currently locked in a room inside Parliament House going through the budget papers in full, and we won't know the details until 7.30pm.

But the fiscal policy points released in recent days do give us a taste of what's coming - and how the Coalition Government will frame itself in the upcoming election.

Here's what we can expect.

HIGHLIGHTS SO FAR

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is expected to announce a doubling of the $530 tax break it gave last year to workers who earn between $48,000 and $90,000, giving a $1000 boost to about 4.4 million Aussies on low and middle incomes.

There will also be tax relief for those earning as little as $37,000, as well as for those earning as much as $126,000.

There's a modest energy supplement for the most disadvantaged Australians - $75 a year for singles and $125 for couples - to help with power bills.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Finance Senator Mathias Cormann. Picture: Kym Smith
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Finance Senator Mathias Cormann. Picture: Kym Smith

A total spend of $10 billion for infrastructure is expected to be allocated, along with $600 million to implement the recommendations from the banking royal commission.

Sky News reports that the budget will include $868 for security, including counter terrorism, while health spending will be boosted by $1 billion.

'BACK IN THE BLACK'

Mr Frydenberg is preparing to deliver the first surplus budget in 12 years tonight, forecasting a return to the black next year.

He said earlier today that the achievement was "no accident".

"It's the product of responsible decisions and an economic plan that is working," Mr Frydenberg told reporters.

Current net debt is sitting at $370 billion and the government is pledging to eliminate that within a decade, Sky News reports.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg arriving at Parliament House this morning. Picture: AAP
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg arriving at Parliament House this morning. Picture: AAP

LESS DEBT, LOWER TAXES

In Question Time, Mr Morrison promised tonight's budget will deliver a surplus and pay down debt, in addition to "lower taxes (for) all Australians without increasing taxes on any Australians".

"(We are) backing small and family businesses, ensuring we're taking all industries forward, whether they're our mining industries and agricultural industries, or our new frontier industries in the health and instrument sector," Mr Morrison said.

Scott Morrison in Question Time ahead of tonight’s budget. Picture: AAP
Scott Morrison in Question Time ahead of tonight’s budget. Picture: AAP

Labor's Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has accused the government of "copying" the Opposition's tax policy.

"I can assure the member that the Liberal and Nationals parties will never be borrowing any economic policy from the Labor Party," Mr Morrison said in response.

"The last time the Labor Party had a surplus was 1989, Mr Speaker. I had long curly hair back then, Mr Speaker. That's how long that was ago," he says.

INSTAGRAM PIC PANNED

Ahead of the budget, the PM shared a moody black-and-white portrait of himself on social media that is being fairly widely panned.

Just a day after he joined the youth-favoured social media app Snapchat, the PM has taken to Instagram with a highly stylised image of himself to promote the promised budget surplus.

 

But the majority of comments have been far from positive, with users urging him to "delete this" and "fire your comms people".

"I can't wait until AC/DC sue you," one said.

Today show newsreader Tom Steinfort compared the picture to an album cover.

A few pointed out that the crop and contrast make the photograph appear it was taken in "a toilet cubicle".

Another cheeky commenter pointed out that Mr Morrison and his Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have only been in their roles a short while.

"Excellent work by (Malcolm Turnbull) to get our country into this position," the user wrote.

Victorian Liberal Tim Wilson also borrowed the black-and-white colour scheme for an Instagram image he shared about the surplus achievement.

And the Liberal Party has made its own video that resembles a promo for a television series, featuring a slow motion Mr Morrison and big, bold graphics.

'A CAMPAIGN LAUNCH'

Tonight's budget will double as the start of the government's election campaign, The Australian columnist Caroline Overington writes.

The key messages we will hear shortly are expected to be on economic management and tax cuts, balancing the budget.

Expect to hear those message for the next several weeks, before the country goes to the polls some time in May, Overington said.

"It's more accurately a campaign launch," she wrote of the budget.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison unofficially launches his election campaign tonight. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison unofficially launches his election campaign tonight. Picture: AAP

"They're building momentum for a campaign based on economic management. That campaign starts today."

Mr Morrison is expected to call the election within the next week, with the favourite picks for a possible date currently being May 11 or May 18. We'll find out soon enough.

RATES ON HOLD

In other fiscal news, the Reserve Bank of Australia has kept the country's official cash rate unchanged at 1.5 per cent.

The interest rate has sat on hold for a record-breaking 32 months now. It hasn't increased since November 2010.


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