Record $20 billion surplus coming: Jim Chalmers

The surplus would help “take some of the edge” off the federal government’s debt interest bill and Chalmers said it was important to set aside a large chunk for the future as the economic outlook remained uncertain.

“Even though the budget is in much better nick in the near term, we’ve still got those longer-term intensifying pressures,” he said.

The treasurer also announced Chris Barrett would be the next chair of the Productivity Commission, taking over from Michael Brennan in September.

Chalmers said Barrett has been tasked with renewing the commission as part of the government’s shake-up of the country’s major economic institutions.

“Chris’s appointment recognises that if we want to build a stronger economy, then we’ve got to build stronger economic institutions, and that means renewing and refocusing and revitalising the Productivity Commission,” he said.

But the appointment will be heavily scrutinised by the Coalition, with shadow treasurer Angus Taylor saying the Coalition was not consulted.


Barrett has been a deputy secretary for Victoria’s Treasury and Finance Department since January 2021, was Australia’s OECD ambassador in 2011 and was chief of staff to former Labor treasurer Wayne Swan.

“The test of Mr Barrett’s performance will be in whether he pursues genuine productivity reform or rubber stamps Labor’s union-led agenda that business is warning will take productivity further backwards,” Taylor said.

Chalmers said the commission would remain “fiercely independent”.

Barrett was appointed following interviews with two departmental secretaries and the Australian Public Service commissioner. The decision was formally approved by cabinet on Monday.


The Australian Bureau of Statistics will publish the latest quarterly inflation figures on Wednesday, a key piece of data that will help the Reserve Bank board decide whether it should lift interest rates from 4.1 per cent at next week’s meeting.

Chalmers said even though inflation – which was 7 per cent in the year to March – was still high, it was moderating.

“It’s really important that the government is not adding unnecessarily to those pressures and so by banking such a big proportion of the upward revisions to revenue, then we’re making our contribution on that front,” he said.

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