If you’ve been otherwise occupied with life, you may have missed that this was budget week.
But there’s no need to fret, here are the highlights of the busiest week on the Australian political calendar
At budget time voters can usually rely on at least one of the two major parties focusing on where the money‘s actually going to come from.
That’s a fair expectation, given we tend to measure a party’s economic competence by how they balance government saving with spending.
But there’s been no inclination by either major party to balance the books this year. Instead they’re both throwing money around like there’s an election just around the corner and the bidding war for voters has already begun.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey have forgotten all about the so-called budget emergency, instead spending up big on a 1.5 per cent tax cut for small business as well as giving the sector an immediate tax write-off worth up to $20,000.
The government is hoping small business will go forth and spend, thereby giving the economy a much-needed kick-start. Some have already noted it’s just like a Rudd-Swan stimulus budget, but without the GFC.
The budget gave Labor the chance to improve their economic competency in the eyes of voters by calling out the government’s profligacy. But no, the Opposition decided to up the bid to voters instead, with offers including a massive 5 per cent cut for small business and the scrapping of HECS debt for some university degrees.
Australians were looking to the major parties to make a serious attempt at fixing the budget. Instead they were let down by converts to magic pudding economics, who seem reliant on dollars magically reappearing no matter how much is spent.
Meanwhile, the government’s other big spending measure in the budget has proven to be unexpectedly problematic. Wannabe Treasurer/PM Scott Morrison had crafted a likely vote-winner with his “jobs and families” package by shifting funds from paid parental leave and childcare support for stay-at-home mums to making childcare more affordable and accessible for working mothers.
Yet he and the Treasurer managed to royally botch the sales pitch for the package by playing the politics of envy on paid parental leave.
It was politically dumb to label mothers who legally access taxpayer-funded PPL as a top up to their employer-funded scheme as rorters.
Equally stupid was the person who didn’t think to check whether government MPs had themselves “doubled-dipped” before the practice was demonised.
What planet do they live on?
It could be said Social Services Minister Scott Morrison must have been living on another planet to underestimate the wrath of women scorned with words like rorter and fraud.
Yet he must come from another galaxy altogether if he thinks he’s been generous to the young unemployed by cutting last year’s proposed wait for the dole from six months to four weeks. This is still a significant increase on the current one-week waiting period and is more about playing up to some voters’ prejudices about “lazy young people” and “dole bludgers” than it is about helping the young unemployed to “have a go”.
What about me?
And while the media’s focus was firmly fixed on the major parties this week, there were still notable cases of relevance deprivation syndrome on display.
Former Senate kingpin Clive Palmer is no longer a media darling now that his voting bloc has been reduced from three to one. As a result he’s been reduced to plaintively reminding voters of his existence through social media.
Nevertheless the PUP leader managed to find something to announce this week, declaring in a rambling media release (in which he laid claim to everything other than finding a cure for polio) that his eponymous party would no longer stand candidates for state and territory election.
Good thinking Clive, given that tactic didn’t work so well last time.