Like others I woke up this morning to the news that the government has had a very sharp turnaround in the polls many people are unhappy with the budget. Well just tell me who is surprised? I’m not because the government have gone the difficult path of doing the right thing. something that is often rather unpopular. Its times like this that we learn the true calibre of our leaders. Perhaps its time for those who are cheering so loudly for Labor in the commentary should take a moment or two to consider just how we got to this place where a government has to bring down such a harsh and, lets be frank, unpopular budget.
That is exactly what happened. Rudd was worse than Whitlam. In the six years Labor was in government, the growth in Australia’s real federal expenditure was close to highest in the Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development – even though Australia was a resource economy with a sturdy banking sector and no housing bubble, and thus not susceptible to the financial shock in the US and much of Europe.
It is difficult to move the macro-economic needle quickly in a $1.5 trillion economy that is the 12th largest in the world (larger than Spain, which has 47 million people). In 2009, Rudd managed to jolt the needle, ramping up federal spending as a percentage of GDP.
He was also more profligate than Julia Gillard and she was no prize, loading future budgets with the Gonski education program, the national disability insurance scheme and the multibillion asylum seeker debacle without seeming to have a Gonski about how it would all be paid for.
Now that the bills are coming due, neither Rudd nor Gillard are around. It is the morning after. The clean-up. The payment due date. And the demographic challenge has loomed into focus. So let’s not confuse who did the spending and who is having to pay.
It would also be remiss not to mention the supposed “crisis” in NSW. The people who instigated the current revelations about Liberal politicians, lobbyists and fund-raisers were a Liberal senator, Bill Heffernan, and a Liberal Party executive member, Holly Hughes. Not exactly a cover-up.
New South Wales has a new premier untouched by scandal. He has a thumping majority in Parliament and firm hand on the budget. The Independent Commission Against Corruption is doing its duty to the discomfort of both sides of politics, unhindered by political interference. Its work will lead to better governance of all political parties.
A clean-up is not a crisis. We’ve already had a false crisis and are about to pay for it.