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Embattled Aussie PM splashes the cash in pre-election budget

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia’s ruling Liberal Party splashed the cash in a pre-election budget yesterday filled with goodies for voters souring on nine years of conservative rule.

With an election expected in May, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s party trailing Labor heavily in the polls, his government announced a budget that cuts fuel duty in half and promises AUD8.6 billion (USD6.4 billion) in tax rebates.

About half the adult population – or 10 million people – will get a USD420 tax handout to sweeten the deal.

Having promised and failed to put the budget “back in black” with fiscal prudence, Morrison’s plan foresees the deficit exploding to AUD78 billion or 3.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year, and set to remain in the red for a decade.

“The past two years have been tough for our country,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, informing parliament of the plans.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivers his 2022 Budget in Parliament House in Canberra. PHOTO: AFP

“We have overcome the greatest economic shock since the great depression.”

Morrison has been pilloried for his handling of devastating bushfires, floods and a painfully slow vaccine rollout.

According to the latest Newspoll survey, his Liberal-led coalition is trailing Labor 45-55 in the two-party vote.

Morrison faces an uphill battle to win over women voters after his handling of rape allegations made by a female political staffer in government, as well as young voters repelled by his pro-coal stance.

His government has swatted aside calls to ween the Australian economy off its dependence on coal and natural gas, touting a “gas-fired recovery” from the pandemic and vowing to dig coal for as long as people are buying.

According to the latest Newspoll, Anthony Albanese’s Labor has the vote of more than 60 per cent of 18 to 49-year-olds.