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Jobs, not debt, must be top priority, voters tell Abbott

Voters have a clear message for the Coalition as it looks to curtail spending in its first budget: don't do it if it could harm jobs growth.

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Red-tape website launch

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has launched a red-tape website as the government prepares to commence its $1 billion repeal process.

With the government railing against accumulated deficits left to it of $123 billion over four years and a potential debt of $667 billion over the decade, a nationwide Fairfax-Nielsen poll has found more than three-quarters of voters think fostering employment should be Canberra's focus rather than returning the budget to surplus.

The overwhelming preference for jobs over cuts was expressed in the survey of 977 voters taken between March 13 and 15, even though more than half of all voters still want the budget balanced.

Asked as part of the monthly survey which should be the greater focus, just 12 per cent of voters nominated driving the budget back into the black as a more important project than getting the conditions right for job creation.

Fifty-four per cent said returning to surplus was a ''high priority'' - the same figure incidentally that was returned in the February survey last year under Wayne Swan as treasurer.


But asked to choose between ''returning to surplus'' or ''creating jobs'', a decisive 86 per cent plumped for job creation. Among Labor voters the figure was 94 per cent. It was 79 per cent among Coalition voters and 92 per cent among Greens voters.

The findings go some way to explain what has been a discernible softening of rhetoric from the government in recent weeks as tough talk of large cuts aimed at rapid fiscal consolidation has receded.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday maintained his government was still on track to create a million jobs in five years by reducing government interference in commerce and particularly through stripping $1 billion out of red-tape costs each year.

Claiming $350 million in company compliance costs had already been identified, he said repeal legislation for more than 8000 unnecessary regulations would be introduced in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The $350 million figure nominated by the government came with few details and is derived from the claimed savings to industry of being relieved of compliance requirements regarding the mining tax ($10 million) and the carbon tax ($85 million), and with the proposed ''future of financial advice'' changes known as FOFA.

Mr Abbott unveiled a new website at cuttingredtape.gov.au, designed to monitor progress in red-tape reduction and allow the public and business to suggest rules and procedures to be abolished.

Accompanying the policy are guidelines to ensure all government agencies provide a ''regulatory impact statement'' with any cabinet submissions.

''Red tape boosts costs, and the higher business costs are the harder it is to employ and the higher prices are for consumers,'' Mr Abbott said.

The poll suggested the recent series of job losses in major manufacturing operations was contributing to a wider sense of voter anxiety about employment security as the official jobless rate hits 6 per cent.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has recently stated that the budget will be configured to promote maximum jobs growth.

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