- This budget aims to revive the Abbott government’s political fortunes, entrench the Coalition base vote with small business, families and farmers and give priority to growth and jobs over budget repair.
The second Hockey budget is driven by two forces: the need to counter the onslaught on the 2014 budget that almost destroyed the government and the $52 billion revenue downgrade since last year.
The bottom line estimates conceal the policy reversal at work. This budget’s real purpose is to save the Abbott government. The second related purpose is to boost economic activity in the teeth of faltering growth.
(Kelly’s article is paywalled, but if you type into Google his name and the first phrase…)
Ian Verrender reverses the emphasis on those two purposes:
- This was supposed to be a boring budget. It is anything but. It is a radical shift from Hockey’s maiden effort; a sudden lurch from austerity to big spending stimulus that bears all the hallmarks of a government desperately hoping to resuscitate a flagging economy and its own credibility.
It’s just that Verrender can’t see the stimulus working as it’s based on above average GDP growth magically reappearing. And on India coming good, should China falter.
Quite a few commenters shared my reaction that the budget speech felt like there was an election coming. Barrie Cassidy puts the chances of an early election at 50:50. The purpose, he said was to get back into the political game after a miserable 12 months, and it might just work.
Greg Jericho uses a movie analogy of a sequel. Treasurers like to see their second budget as a sequel to the first, building on the strategy laid down in the first.
Keating and Costello could do this with some credibility. Swan found himself in an alternative reality, courtesy of the GFC. Hockey and Abbott are pretending that the second is building on the first, but it doesn’t wash. The budget is a reboot rather than a sequel.
- It makes for an odd reboot – a bigger government, one worried about fairness rather than budget emergencies and across the board expenditure cuts.
Such a radical change of narrative may be too much for voters. Certainly it is unlikely to make them feel like they know what this government stands for.
Both Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott will hope voters like the reboot. For if not, it is very likely that the third budget in the trilogy will see a much different cast performing the key roles.
The voters, it would appear, are pessimistic about Australia and sceptical as to whether the political class can provide the required leadership, according to Jonathon Green. Writing last week, he said the budget will be a true test of authenticity:
- Next week’s budget is a challenge to the Government to convince that growing body of the population who doubt the capacity of our political system to deliver outcomes that are in the national interest.
The narrative constructed around the budget needs to be based on economics rather than politics and needs to be believable.
Budget 2015 sprays goodies around, mainly to the LNP core constituency, and seeks to minimise the losers, although this handy ABC explainer shows the losers to be quite widespread. But electors can’t necessarily be bought, as the recent Queensland election showed. People want the chance of a decent life, and if they lack confidence in the political leadership they might just change it.
See also Joe’s big-spending budget.
Update: Mark Bahnisch has an insightful piece at Social democratic directions.