Today's announcement by the federal government that it is prepared to go ahead with the biggest single defence purchase in the country's history comes surely as a surprise to those who took seriously Joe Hockey's dire warnings from opposition of a "budget emergency".
As Hockey continues to prepare Australians for a tough budget, the government continues to announce new spending: the 58 fighter jets come on top of Direct Action, disability insurance, Gonski school funding and paid parental leave. Yet the carbon price and mining super-profits tax are to go, and Tony Abbott has promised to reduce company tax by 1.5 per cent.
Is there a "budget emergency" or isn't there? Greg Jericho makes a strong case for "no". Certainly the messages are mixed. Australians are entitled to know what's going on.
Bill Shorten is beginning to run the line that the government is one "of lobbyists, for lobbyists", though of course Labor is hardly immune to such rhetoric. Despite Abbott's intention to get tough on lobbying in the wake of Barry O'Farrell's resignation, it's increasingly difficult to ignore the observation that many of the government's policies align with the wishes of powerful interests. The defence lobby wants the Joint Strike Fighters; the private health insurers want the $6 GP co-payment; the fossil fuel industry doesn't want a carbon price.
Of course, others want these policies too (and the Rudd government was the first to approve the Joint Strike Fighter program), but after events in NSW last week the government must work against a perception that it governs in anything other than the public interest.
"The $12.4 billion price tag makes the Joint Strike Fighters Australia's most expensive Defence asset. The Government says it will also consider the option of buying another squadron of the next-generation fighter jets to eventually replace the RAAF'S F/A-18 Super Hornets."
"Among all the talk in the run-up to the budget, the overriding narrative has been that 'fixing' the budget is required to fix the economy. It's a narrative the Government hopes you take on faith rather than on evidence."
Also: Hockey to give firm date on Audit Commission unveiling (Michelle Grattan, The Conversation)
And: Tony Abbott's chief business adviser Maurice Newman backs GP visit fee and denies that climate change is man-made (Dan Harrison, Sydney Morning Herald)
"The regional head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees revealed that Australia has refused to provide information to its inquiry about three asylum seekers who claim they had their hands deliberately burned during a tow-back mission in January. And UNHCR senior regional protection adviser Tom Vargas criticised Australia’s proposal to send refugees to Cambodia, saying it was 'not in the spirit of resettlement'."
Also: Sleepless nights until the Manus nightmare ends (Ben Pynt, Sydney Morning Herald)
"Why was Christopher Harvard of Townsville killed in Yemen in November by a American drone strike, along with a dual New Zealand-Australian citizen known as 'Muslim Bin John', and three other 'militants'? And why do New Zealanders know more about the killing of Muslim Bin John than we do about Harvard’s death?"
"Brandis hopes that our natural repulsion at excluding a particular view from the public arena will be aroused in support of climate science denial. This, however, ignores a vital characteristic of public debate: when ideas suffer body blows of sustained scientific refutation any attempt to maintain their status by appeal to an equal right of hearing is also an attempt to exempt them from evidential requirements and argumentative rigour."
Also: Brandis misses the finer points of free speech (Henry Martyn Lloyd, The Drum)