Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the past few days you will have heard/seen Joe Hockey say that the budget is in terrible shape and he’ll have to clean up Labor’s mess. You see it’s all Labor’s fault.
Chris Bowen has been saying that $20 billion of the $17 billion budget deterioration since Labor’s pre-election statement is due to Hockey’s own decisions, that Hockey is setting us up for swingeing cuts in the budget in May next year.
I think the $20 billion is across the forward estimates (four years) and the $17 billion is just this year – it’s confusing.
Laura Tingle says the budget has been mugged by the deteriorating economy as well as alarming spending blowouts. There is a need, she says, not to “crunch a soft economy facing a continuing decline in national income, yet in the medium term there is a need to profoundly re-engineer the budget – and voters’ expectations.”
Yet there is so far a complete lack of what she calls “fiscal rules” to measure Hockey’s performance. There are no yardsticks or performance indicators. The future is completely open. We await the National Commission of Audit and the Government response with some trepidation.
Bruce Cockburn’s song If a tree falls sees vast swathes of forest felled. Yet single trees falling also go unnoticed. What’s happened in Queensland in the last couple of years foreshadows what we can expect. Ben Eltham’s report on the massive cuts to small and medium arts organisations in Queensland, for example, warns of worrying reverberations through the entire national arts sector. Cuts of that kind may not impinge directly on my experience, but I feel the life blood is being sucked out of the place. Yet the Newman government are now telling us how worthwhile the whole exercise has been. They are very proud of themselves.
Ian McAuley thinks we’ll get a massive stimulus to benefit the well off and more debt because Abbott cares about winning elections and beating up on Labor more than responsible government. I suspect that misreads the relationship between Abbott and Hockey. I suspect Hockey, backed by Matthias Cormann and Arthur Sinodinos, is running fiscal policy.
John Daley of the Grattan Institute thinks the Government will need to break at least one of its promises:
You don’t solve a budget deficit of $30 billion a year with a couple of hundred million here and a couple of hundred million there. You actually need to do some big things. The Government has certainly promised that they’re not going to be reducing education spending or health spending or defence spending or changing superannuation rules or increasing taxes. So that doesn’t leave them a lot of options.
Honestly, anything could happen.