John Howard says government faces tough sell with budget

FORMER Prime Minister John Howard said the Abbott Government faced a "tough political sell" in order to sway public opinion surrounding certain elements contained in its first budget.

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey delivered his first budget on Wednesday which contained both wide-spread cuts and little sweeteners.

Mr Howard, who was addressing more than 2000 people at the annual post-budget breakfast on Wednesday in Brisbane, said Mr Hockey had delivered a "main game" budget.

But he warned there were some elements of the budget that would not be popular with voters.

"I think the government was absolutely correct to do a lot of up-front things and I think the right budget was achieved," he said.

"I think he (Joe Hockey) got more or less the right balance between expenditure and taxation measures.

"No doubt there will be a lot of comment and a lot of criticisms about the 2% increase in the top rate of tax and we all know Australian's love their motor cars and they are very sensitive to fuel prices."

However, Mr Howard said he believed the government could be in for a surprise in relation to cuts made to family benefits.

"I would not underestimate the impact of the budget on the disposable incomes of a lot of people in the low-to-middle bracket," he said.

"I have the old-fashioned view that a couple on $120,000 a year with two children should not have to pay the same tax as a couple on $120,000 with no children.

"I still hold to the philosophical view that they are not welfare payments, but rather, they are tax breaks for the cost of having children.

"I think a taxation system, if it is to have some sort of dimension of social vision, should recognise that it costs a great deal of money to have children."

Mr Howard said he hoped if the Abbott Government reached its goal of delivering a surplus it would do the right thing by Australians.

"Money government has is not its own and it is not borrowed from another country," he said.

"It is money that belongs to taxpayers.

"After you have invested in the things you should invest in, and you have provided for the future, then your obligation is to give it back to the people who gave it to you in the first instance."

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