Scott Morrison will deliver an early budget to allow for a May election, assuming his coalition government can hold together that long.
The prime minister says the April 2 budget papers will show a surplus, the size of which will be clearer in the mid-year budget review on December 17.
This would allow for a half-Senate and full House of Representatives election on May 11 or 18.
“It is absolutely our intention to have the budget before the election and to deliver a surplus budget, a surplus budget that we promised to deliver,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
The timing will give the coalition an opportunity to talk up its economic strengths before Australians head to the polls.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg stressed a strong economy was a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.
“The benefit of a strong economy is that you can provide the essential services – the defence, the border security, the infrastructure, the disability support,” Mr Frydenberg said.
But the government has to last that long, and there is no guarantee after Liberal MP Julia Banks quit the party to go to the crossbench.
Mr Morrison’s government was already in minority thanks to the loss of Malcolm Turnbull’s old seat to independent Kerryn Phelps, but Ms Banks’ defection makes the next six months even trickier.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen welcomed the opportunity to pit his party’s economic plans against those of the government.
Labor plans to rein in negative gearing and dividend imputation for shares,
“We will argue the case right up to election day because our policies are fair, they’re well-crafted, and they’re the best plans for the budget and for the future,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Canberra.
Neither Mr Morrison or Mr Frydenberg was worried shifting commodity prices could impact their budget planning, because Treasury’s commodity forecasts were “very conservative”.
But Mr Bowen said there are downside risks in the global economy and the government needed to be prepared.