Joe Hockey warns on Australia's credit rating

Australia's gold-plated credit rating could be at risk if parliament fails to approve a path back to surplus, Treasurer Joe Hockey has warned while accusing Labor of ''ripping up'' its own promise to get the budget back in the black.

Standard and Poors credit agency this week reaffirmed Australia's Triple A rating saying the outlook remained ''stable''.

S&P, however, said it based its assessment on the assumption that ''fiscal deficits continue to narrow'' and that the government's ''debt burden will remain low''. The agency warned it could lower the ratings if net government debt rises from its current level of about 20 per cent to above 30 per cent of GDP.

Treasurer Joe Hockey is standing firm on his unpopular budget. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Treasurer Joe Hockey is standing firm on his unpopular budget. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Mr Hockey on Wednesday seized on the statement saying that it showed Labor needed to uphold its pre-election commitment of also returning the budget to surplus, which he described as a ''common goal'' of both major parties.

''There used to be agreement between the Labor Party and the Coalition that you need to get back to surplus to take the risk out of the Australian economy,'' the Treasurer told ABC radio.

''Obviously the Labor Party no longer agrees to surplus budgets.''

The Treasurer described it as a ''significant shift'' that S&P ''assumed would not occur''.

The government is battling to find the support it needs in the Senate to have its more controversial budget measures passed, including the $7 GP co-payment, fuel excise increase and changes to the way future family benefits are paid. It also failed to get the mining tax repealed after crossbench senators blocked the abolition of measures linked to the tax such as the schoolkids bonus.

Mr Hockey has flagged a compromise on some of the budget's measures, but not if they put a surplus at risk.

''From time to time there will always be changes. Having said that the intent of the budget is to get back to surplus,'' he said.

But he ruled out a mini-budget if the government was unsuccessful in the Senate because he believed the government's plan was the ''best program for reform'', on offer.

The government is also seeking feedback on its plan to require dole recipients to apply for 40 jobs per month, which has been criticised by business groups and social service organisations.

The Treasurer said the government was consulting on the proposal, which he said would ask an unemployed person to submit "a job application in the morning and a job application in the afternoon".

''It was always intended to be flexible,'' he said.

He rejected suggestions work-for-the-dole programs were futile measures to get people into paid work.

SMH

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