Joe Hockey’s first budget is a ticking timebomb.
The coalition will find itself going to the 2016 election strapped to some serious political dynamite.
Escalating petrol prices, paying to go to a previously bulk-billed GP, more expensive medicines, lower pension and family payment rises and higher university fees will feed into voter concerns the Abbott government has lost touch.
Hockey insists that by everyone making a contribution now, a better Australia can be built.
But the budget papers give a fuzzy picture of the future and show a puzzling set of priorities.
Despite the government arguing the tough love will deliver economic spinoffs, the budget is projecting unemployment to ease by only 0.25 per cent on 2013/14 levels over the next four years.
And for all the talk of a $50 billion infrastructure plan creating thousands of jobs, most of it was already in the pipeline begun by Labor and will require the states to sell off what few assets remain in public hands.
It is often said a budget is about priorities.
Spending $53.3 million on a royal commission into unions over two years may seem a waste when pensioners and concession card holders lose $618 million in benefits over the same period.
Labor’s much-rehearsed message of “broken promises and twisted priorities”, which has put it ahead in the polls, will continue to resonate.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s key strategy for the next three years – based on his first budget – will be focused on how the pain is delivering dividends.
Expect plenty of TV footage of the PM in fluro vest and hardhat, doing the rounds of corporate boardrooms and talking up any cut in the jobless rate.
The new $20 billion medical research fund will give the government a good story to tell to families with loved ones struggling with cancer or dementia.
He will also continue to argue the personal hip-pocket and business benefits of axing the carbon and mining taxes.
But at this stage in the electoral cycle, the clock already is ticking on the Abbott government.