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budget 09TONIGHT’S Federal Budget will be about three things – jobs, nation building and a path back to surplus.

That was the message from Treasurer Wayne Swan this morning as he again repeated the Government’s mantra that there would be “difficult decisions” and “no easy answers”.

Just hours from delivering a in Budget ravaged by a $200 billion writedown revenue, Mr Swan said he was working in the “most difficult set of circumstances in 75 years”.

But he dodged questions about the likely impact on Labor in the polls, saying: “What we have to do is the right thing in the nation’s long-term economic interests”.

Wealthy retirees emerged as the latest group to pay the price for that stance today.

The Daily Telegraph reported they could have their pensions cut to help fund a $30-a week increase for almost one million single age pensioners.

The Government is expected to tighten the taper rate on the age pension, a method by which it claws back the welfare payment from retirees with an independent income.

It is just one of a number of cutbacks the Government is expected to outline as it tries to rein in an expected almost $60 billion Budget deficit.

The 30 per cent tax rebate for private health insurance coverage will be means tested, payouts for obstetric and IVF services under the Medicare Safety Net will be cut back and the increase in the first-home owners grant will be wound back.

Wealthy Australians will have their tax break on superannuation contributions cut in half and government superannuation co-contributions for low income earners will be slashed from $1500 to $1000 a year.

The “sin taxes” on alcohol and cigarettes could be increased.

But the Budget will announce an 18-week paid maternity leave scheme.

And it is expected to include a big-spending jobs package to combat an expected increase in unemployment to 8.5 per cent as a result of the global financial crisis.

The Opposition said the Budget cutbacks were made necessary by the Government’s irresponsible big-spending stimulus packages in response to the global financial crisis.

The $30-a-week rise in the pension will go only to single age pensioners and will see the weekly pension rate rise from $284.90 to $315 a week.

It will answer criticism that the payment left in poverty those who relied solely on the pension.

The rise is also expected to be extended to single veterans and disability pensioners but will not go to single mothers.

The pension rise will cost more than $3 billion, and to help pay for it, the Government is expected to tighten means testing of pensions.

Currently, single pensioners can earn up to $41,000 and still receive a small pension payment.

They also qualify for a range of concessions on medicines, council rates, electricity bills and telephone allowances worth up to $10,000 a year.

Couples can earn up to $68,000 and still get access to these valuable concessions.

http://www.news.com.au

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