…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
Yesterday we were regaled with another, already fifth?sixth? instalment of an escapist fiction from the World’s Greatest Treasure, Wayne Swan. Colloquially and euphemistically know as “The Budget”, it has nothing to do with a budget such as a family or a business may have. Hardly any figures in it are real, assumptions are piled upon assumptions; it is an attempt to escape from reality and electoral consequences. A shell game, if you will.
It is true that beside the journalists there were also many normal people waiting with a baited breath for the grand finale of the budget speech – will he commit seppuku? Or at least resign? Of course, that would be too much to hope for. Integrity in politicians is rarer than hen’s teeth. Furthermore, resigning for dishonesty and incompetence could set a bad precedent and could leave the coalition in power without any elections.
I may digress here. It is an old saying that we believe what we wish to be the truth. Many, including people who ought to know better, like Andrew Bolt, seem to believe that we will have elections on the 14th September this year, only because Gillard(!) said so. Gillard, a person who has managed to break her every promise so far, perhaps a record. Some people remain for ever young and naïve. I think that September election is likely, but not certain. Gillard may hope that something will turn up. It is after all, her personal philosophy.
There were strange signs pre-budget night. Firstly, Labor media hack Laurie Oakes, renown for his infallibly wrong predictions, unwavering adherence to the Labor Party line and having a future PM (Kevin Rudd) cleaning his toilets, turned on the Labor treasurer in a manner hitherto reserved for conservative and semi-conservative politicians. Could it be that Gillard plans to dump Swan and then in her usual comradely fashion blame everything on him?
Swan: Well, I think what we have to continue to do is what we have always done …
Oakes: … Your budget speech last year – would you agree in retrospect it makes hilarious reading?
Swan: Well, it’s certainly true …
Oakes: … You said for example, “The deficit years of the global recession are behind us, the surplus years are here”. Now, that’ll have people laughing in the aisles…
Swan: … There is no credible economic forecaster who predicted this nature of revenue write-down for this year …
Oakes: Joe Hockey predicted it.
Swan: Well, Joe Hockey’s always, always out there preaching doom and gloom.
Oakes: He’s been proved right.
Swan: No, he hasn’t been proven right …
Oakes: We read in the newspapers that in the budget you’ll set out a plan to get back into surplus by 2016-17. Is that right?
Swan: Well, we’ll set out our plan …
Oakes: Why would anyone believe you after the fiasco of last year’s budget? … Are you going to get up tomorrow and start your speech saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, circumstances can change, so what I’m saying tonight can be taken with a grain of salt”? … Another part of your speech that reads like stand-up comedy from last year, you were boasting about spreading the benefits of the mining boom via your mining tax. That tax produced no money, people see that as another bungle … The opposition says you’ve created a $5 billion black hole because you forecast a slowing down of asylum-seeker boat arrivals when in fact records are being broken by the day … That’s cooking the books?
One would expect this sort of questioning from a real journalist, not Oakes.
Secondly, a few days ago Wayne Swan discovered the truth: “The truth is that the global economy is capable of changing dramatically, quickly, and having different effects on the economy at different times.” Better late than never, one could say, but – this person is in charge of Australia’ financial future. He discovers something so obvious now?
That truth is good as an excuse for the past fiasco, but as far as the future is concerned: “However Mr Swan, who recently warned long-term forecasts can be unreliable, says his own 10-year funding plan for schools and disability care will be “absolutely” meaningful.” About as meaningful as anything he ever said.
I have to admit that being neither a market nor an economic commentator, I was not surprised: “In a surprise to markets and economic commentators, even after being softened up with pre-budget warnings of a current $17 billion revenue write-down, Mr Swan has revealed a fiscal shortfall for 2012/13 of $19.4 billion in place of what was forecast to be a budget surplus of $1.1 billion…”
The real figure is probably close to $22 billion. Yet, according to Newspol, on two-party preferred basis, 44% of voters wish to be ruled over by the ALP, exhibiting a firm belief in a cargo cult – vote Labor and someone will provide. Perhaps the good times will never end.