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Australia unveils budget to counter hit from commodities

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (C-front), seen with Treasurer Joe Hockey (L), Deputy PM Warren Truss (C) and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, at Parliament House in Canberra, on February 23, 2015The Australian government Tuesday unveiled a budget it said would support small businesses and promote jobs growth as it sought to stimulate a flagging economy hit by slumping commodity prices. The budget shifted away from a focus on reining in a huge deficit after harsh cuts to welfare, education and health sparked a voter backlash last year and triggered a challenge to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s leadership. Instead, the government will roll out a Aus$5.5 billion (US$4.4 billion) small business package, mostly tax cuts, to stimulate investment in the sector, as well as a Aus$4.4 billion boost to funding for family-focused policies such as childcare. The budget papers showed that forecast tax receipts had been cut by Aus$52 billion over the four years to 2017-18, driven by an almost 50 percent fall in the price of iron ore — Australia’s biggest export — and weak wages growth.

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