Interest rates are falling, unemployment is rising, Labor in on the nose, and the Gillard government is attempting the biggest fiscal turnaround in decades - setting the stage for an extraordinary federal budget.

But some things stay the same. Observing a time-honoured tradition, the government has been busy leaking key budget decisions.

Here's what we've gleaned so far about the 2012 federal budget:

  • The introduction of a "loss carryback" option for small business. Recommended by the Henry Tax Review, the carryback plan allows businesses to claim losses of up to $1 million against tax they have paid in the previous two years. It is forecast to cost $700 million over three years and is designed to stimulate SMEs in the slow end of the economy.
  • A company tax cut of 1 percentage point to 29 per cent, assuming it gets through Parliament.
  • Cash payments for parents. The "Schoolkids Bonus" will give $820 for parents with teenagers at school and $410 for parents of primary school students. It will be given to recipients of Family Tax Benefit and does away with the need to keep education-related receipts.
  • Pushing 100,000 sole parents off parenting payments and on to Newstart when their child turns eight, delivering $700 million in savings over four years. This will mean welfare cuts of up to $60 a week for recipients.
  • Welfare payments for people travelling overseas for more than six weeks will be cut.
  • Billions of dollars in savings from the defence budget.
  • The superannuation contribution tax will be doubled to 30 per cent for people on incomes above $300,000.
  • The living-away-from-home allowance for executives will be cut, saving $1 billion.
  • Job cuts for the public service.
  • Funding for the national disability insurance scheme, earmarked to start next year.
  • Changes to aged care funding, as detailed in its recent aged-care report.
  • About half a billion for dental care.
  • Cuts to green schemes, to avoid duplication with the carbon tax.
  • $3.5 billion in funding to finish the Pacific Highway dual carriageway.

And what is speculated:

  • Changes to housing - will the government take steps to prop up the market?
  • Support for the manufacturing industry.
  • An end to the 32 cents a litre diesel fuel rebate.
  • A skills package encompassing apprenticeships and vocational skills.  

mheffernan@fairfaxmedia.com.au