Budget carrots and sticks

FEDERAL Treasurer Wayne Swan says his new budget will help Australia lead the developed world back to budget surplus and prosperity.

The first federal budget under Julia Gillard as Prime Minister will be the fourth for Treasurer Wayne Swan.

Canberra watchers said the government appeared to be hoping last night’s presentation would shift political attention from the carbon tax and asylum seekers.

Mr Swan said it would also get more Australians into jobs and share the opportunities of the mining boom, “spreading opportunity to every postcode in this country”.

“We will come back to surplus before any other major advanced economy,” he told AAP, while the ABC reported government hopes that the budget would help translate the mining boom into jobs, while also increasing the government’s popularity through new incentives for teachers and free set-top boxes to help pensioners with analogue television sets cope with the switch to digital television.

Tough measures included a long-promised crackdown on welfare payments to some teenage mothers and the long-term unemployed.

Mr Swan said forward estimates from the budget showed the government returning to surplus in 2012/13.

He had already announced increased work experience obligations for long-term unemployed workers.

With nearly 230,000 people registered as long-term unemployed in Australia, the government is seeking to cut welfare costs and address a shrinking pool of available workers, as a result of the mining boom.

Low-income earners will be encouraged to increase their workforce participation and teenage mums will be forced to finish their education and improve their skills so they are ready for work, as well as ensuring their children are ready for school when they are old enough.

The government also plans to increase benefits to parents of older teenagers, to reduce the incidence of students dropping out of school at 16.

Early announcements also led to early criticism from both the Opposition and the Greens, with both saying the government should not be too hard on single mothers.

What's in the federal budget for you? Try our interactive.

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