Australia's conservative government has delivered the country's harshest budget in almost 20 years, stoking a fierce debate as to whether pain is necessary when finances are in relatively good shape.
In its first budget since coming to power last September, the government led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott late Tuesday unveiled a number of measures aimed at cutting the country's budget deficit in the years ahead.
They include an extra 2 percent rise in income tax for those earning above A$180,000 ($166,000), a cut to 16,500 public sector jobs, the rolling back of universal healthcare and rises to the pension age.
"They've said we've got a great big debt problem here in Australia. If you go to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) figures, you'll see that Australia has 12 percent of its GDP (gross domestic product) as debt, the OECD average is 73 percent," said Clive Palmer, leader of the Palmer United Party and a mining magnate who is ranked among Australia's richest 50 people by Forbes.
"So the treasurer has gone to the Australian people to deliver a budget that is ideologically based and it will hit a lot of people," he said.