Oakeshott calls for more stimulus

LYNE MP Rob Oakeshott wants the government to loosen the purse strings and start a third round of stimulus now that the Labor government has all but abandoned its promised surplus next year.

Economists had welcomed the federal government's decision, saying it was not unexpected and would ease the pressure on the Reserve Bank when it makes its monetary policy decisions.

Treasury had forecast in October a $1.1 billion surplus for 2012-13, a turnaround from a $43.7 billion deficit the previous year.

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

The main factor was company tax revenue, hit by profit declines.

Treasurer Wayne Swan said on Thursday that he'd rather ditch the surplus than tighten fiscal policy further and risk local jobs and growth.

Mr Oakeshott applauded this move but wanted the government to go further.

"Unless there is a bumper summer, unless we really can see some increase in consumer confidence and consumer spending I do think the conversation in the first quarter next year will be one about whether to stimulate the economy with a third round of stimulus," he told ABC radio today.

Labor backbencher Doug Cameron cautioned that Australia needed to learn from Europe, where austerity drives had taken many countries' economies backwards.

"We should not be out there arguing fiscal austerity when there are major parts of the economy still in recession and still not recovered from the global financial crisis," he told the ABC.

Independent MP Tony Windsor doesn't see the loss of a surplus as a problem either.

"To focus on the word surplus as being the determiner of being a good economic manager, I think, has always been flawed," he said.

ANZ said in a research note on Friday that, as signalled by ratings agencies, a short-term delay in returning the budget to surplus was unlikely to have an impact on Australia's sovereign AAA credit rating, as long as the path towards fiscal consolidation remained clear.

"While the government will not release updated budget forecasts until early in the new year, we consider a deficit in the order of $5 to $10 billion for 2012-13 would not faze ratings agencies or markets," ANZ said.

JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said Mr Swan's comments meant there would be less pressure on the Reserve Bank in its easing of monetary policy.

"I think the fiscal drag will obviously be less over the current financial year and I'm assuming so into the 2014 financial year as well," he said.

"For that reason we think at the margin it takes a bit of pressure off the RBA, because now we have the two arms of policy – the monetary arm and the fiscal arm – moving in a more congruent manner, rather than going in opposite directions."

Mr Kennedy said on Thursday that a deficit was to be expected as growth moderates.

"When you look at the outlook for 2013, you've basically got growth fading ... In addition, you've got commodity prices that we think have certainly seen their peak in terms of pricing. You had very high prices for coal and iron ore in the back end of 2011 and I think the economy is still adjusting to the lower prices," he said.

"I think considering the current outlook, a deficit will certainly be what occurs with the budget."

Another round of stimulus is needed, says Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott.

Another round of stimulus is needed, says Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott.


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