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Treasurer admits mistake on shares -

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Treasurer admits mistake on shares

Reporter: Emma Griffiths

PETER CAVE: The Federal Government has admitted it's made a mistake in the Budget by cracking down
on employee share ownership schemes.

Businesses and unions have cried foul over the measure, saying the tax changes would have hit
ordinary workers.

Now the Government has announced a review, and the Opposition says if the Government will backflip
on that, why not reverse other unpopular Budget cuts that will make cataract surgery and IVF
treatment more expensive.

From Canberra, Emma Griffiths reports.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: The Budget was handed down with a message that it was all about tough measures for
tough times.

Not even two weeks later, one tough decision is being reviewed.

WAYNE SWAN: Look, I certainly think mistakes have been made in this area. I accept responsibility
for that. And the commonsense thing to do in this situation is to go out and consult and get it
right.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: The Treasurer Wayne Swan has admitted it was a mistake to get tough on employee
share ownership schemes. Since the Budget, many businesses have frozen their share plans, and the
unions have complained that it would deprive workers of a chance to get ahead.

It was a $200 million savings measure in the Budget. The Treasurer says he stands by the intention
of stopping a tax rort, but he doesn't want ordinary workers to suffer. So the Government will
review the income level at which the tax break kicks in.

WAYNE SWAN: We've acknowledge that the $60,000 income cap for access to the $1000 tax exemption may
be too low. We've recognised that and we're going to look at that level and we're going to go out
there and consult about it.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: The Opposition says the share crackdown was a shambles from the start.

Now the Liberal frontbencher Peter Dutton is looking for more openings on other Budget fronts.

PETER DUTTON: My plea today is to the Prime Minister to think about older Australians who are being
affected by the Government's heartless change to cataract surgery.

Many Australians will go without cataract surgery because of the Government's cruel Budget cut. A
lot of families also who rely on IVF to conceive children, to bring a child into this world, have
been severely disadvantaged by the Rudd Government in their Budget.

So if the Government's prepared to backflip in relation to employee share arrangements, they should
make changes to the IVF program and to cataract surgery. They should backflip on those cruel and
callous decisions as well.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: But Peter Dutton's been forced to backpedal himself on the vexed issue of the
alcopops tax.

Over the weekend he stated that if the Government was serious about tackling binge drinking, it
should raise the tax on all alcoholic drinks.

Now he says the comments do not represent Opposition policy. And he's blamed the messenger.

PETER DUTTON: Now there's been some reporting in the press today that I'm in favour of some sort of
70 per cent tax hike on alcoholic products across the board. Well, of course that's ridiculous,
it's poor reporting, it's a rubbish story.

And what we're saying is, like many of the health groups that gave evidence to the Senate
enquiries, if you're serious about the tax system being used to try and curb some of the drinking
behaviours, then you would look at different taxation arrangements, and you wouldn't just drive
young drinkers to start drinking alcoholic products that have got a higher alcohol content because
they're cheaper in price.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: It was too much for the Health Minister Nicola Roxon to resist:

NICOLA ROXON: He's been all over the place on alcopops. I admit that the media as well as the
public might have trouble following what particular position they have on any one day.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: But the Government can't escape its Budget constant: the twin-spectres of deficit
and debt. After nearly two weeks of senior ministers dancing around the actual dollar figures, one
Labor backbencher has been caught out.

What the Prime Minister and Treasurer wouldn't - or couldn't - say - the Member for Petrie, Yvette
D'Ath, didn't know.

YVETTE D'ATH: The deficit forecast? Um, I couldn't tell you off the top of my head. I'm sorry.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: For the record - the deficit figure next financial year is $57.6 billion.

PETER CAVE: Emma Griffiths with that report.