Australian opposition party vows big surpluses if elected

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia's opposition party on Friday promised to deliver bigger budget surpluses if it wins elections next week, while the ruling coalition warned the policies would harm the economy.

Center-left Labor Party lawmakers Chris Bowen and Jim Chalmers outlined a policy to reduce tax breaks for landlords and some shareholders which they say would save 154 billion Australian dollars ($108 billion) over the next decade.

"We can deliver these bigger budget surpluses and the bigger investments of health and education," said Bowen, who would become treasurer in a Labor government.

The conservative government, which is seeking a third three-year term at elections on May 18, has condemned the policy as a high-taxing plan that would further depress a weak housing market that is weighing down economic growth.

"We are facing some downside risks in the economy after droughts, floods, which is why this is the worst possible time for Labor's high-taxing, reckless agenda," Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said.

The government in May forecast an AU$7.1 billion surplus next fiscal year. Labor forecast a bigger AU$7.4 billion surplus in the same year under its policies, with surpluses growing AU$57.9 billion larger in the following three years than the government had predicted.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said previous Labor governments had promised surpluses that never materialized.

"There's always something very fishy when it comes to Labor's claims about how to manage money and I think that's what we're seeing here again today," Morrison said.

Opinion polls suggest Labor will win the election.

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This story has been corrected to show that the conversion in the second paragraph should be $108 billion instead of $108 million.

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