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Treasurer warns Australians on living standards

December 3, 2014

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s treasurer warned on Thursday that Australians’ living standards could fall as the economy slows and a hostile Senate keeps blocking key budget legislation.

Parliament is scheduled to sit for the final day this year on Thursday. Treasurer Joe Hockey urged the Senate to endorse a new tax on medical appointments, a higher tax on gasoline and cuts to university funding in return for higher student fees when it sits again in February.

“There is a risk that Australians could face a fall in living standards if we are unable to implement our economic action strategy,” Hockey told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Government figures released on Wednesday showed that tumbling prices for Australia’s biggest exports — coal and iron ore — plus stagnate wages slowed economic growth to a lower-than-expected 0.3 percent for the September quarter. Growth for the year through September was 2.7 percent.

Innes Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, a leading business group, said the data suggested the economy was weaker than many commentators and policy-makers had been willing to acknowledge.

The economy grew by 0.5 percent in the June quarter and 3.1 percent for the year through June. That was down from 3.5 percent for the year through March.

A mining boom fed by Chinese industrial demand helped Australia scrape through the global financial crisis without dipping into recession.

The surprise September growth figure, which was less than half the 0.7 percent that had been widely expected, led to the Australian dollar hitting a four-year low of 83.92 U.S. cents on Wednesday.

Update hourly