The importance of being earnest
By Frank Barbaro
Treasurer Joe Hockey’s 2014 Budget delivery on Tuesday 12 May was an earnest public display befitting a solemn and grave task.
When announcing government decisions, that widen and deepen misery, anything else would have been unfitting.
The privileged are always good at expressing feeling about the pain they cause for others.
Budget night’s mood matched the preceding earnest rhetoric about a national debt emergency.
However, despite the Treasurer’s public virtue there was evidence that notwithstanding the burdens of State he is a jocular Joe.
Channel Nine's political reporter Laurie Oakes suggested that Hockey danced in his office to the hit song Best Day Of My Life before delivering his budget speech. Hockey denied this.
He couldn’t deny though the contentment and satisfaction on display a few days earlier smoking a cigar with his brother in arms the Minister for Finance, Senator Mathias Cormann.
That image, broadcast widely, reeked of smugness and insensitivity and was at odds with what should have been difficult deliberations about the fate of a nation and its people.
It was a private image to Hockey’s demeanour on Budget night and one that strongly suggested that the two key people in drafting the Budget did not know or did not care about the added burdens they would place on the poorest Australians.
That Tony Abbott lied about what he would or would not do in government is almost expected given the paucity of political morality.
What are abhorrent are the lies about the state of government finances and the nature of the economy and the role of government.
The Abbott Government created a Budget emergency with an artificially high deficit to justify its claim of a Budget emergency.
The lie is revealed in the Budget’s glaringly contradictory tax give-aways, such as mining and carbon taxes, that some economists estimate to be worth about $20 billion.
The meanness is revealed in the attack on low income earners, the pensioners and the unemployed who will offset the tax give-aways and pay the most for the doubtful strategy of balancing the national books.
I say doubtful because the Budget is strong on taking the axe on benefits to the poorest but has no plan on optimistic revenue side with most of the stimulus expected from its infrastructure expenditure.
The other unnerving aspect of the Abbott Government’s first Budget is that it has begun to seriously unravel the universality in Australia’s welfare, education and health system.
If this is allowed to pass the ethos of the fair go will become a distant memory. This remarkable acknowledgement is being made by conservative figures including the following.
I was surprised by a couple of things, the inequity that’s still there in this Budget. The fact that they got a tax on high income earners, the deficit levy, which raises about $3 billion at the same time they’re taking about $12 billion out of pensioners, youths and families. So the heavy lifting is unevenly distributed. John Hewson, former Liberal leader, ABC The Drum 14/5/14