Joe Hockey continued his pre-budget softening-up exercise with his speech at an event for the conservative magazine Spectator Australia yesterday. It went largely as expected. Australia's finances are unsustainable, he said, and the government is committed to repairing them.
On his list of 'Large and Fast Growing Programmes' he singled out the aged pension (1st), aged care (8th) and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (10th) as increasing faster than the economy is growing.
But he didn't mention defence spending, which is 2nd on that list and which is also increasing faster than GDP growth. Nor did he mention that the government's Direct Action climate policy was outside the terms of reference of his Commission of Audit, whose 900-page report is to be publicly released next week.
Also outside the Commission's ambit was Australia's extraordinary system of tax concessions to its wealthiest residents, the highest among developed nations relative to GDP. Superannuation tax concessions, for instance, are growing even faster than the aged pension despite costing the budget about the same amount.
The government has the burden of showing why it intends to cut spending without addressing tax concessions. It hasn't discharged it yet. Perhaps it will on 13 May.
"Repairing the budget will require more use of means testing and co-payments, Treasurer Joe Hockey has warned, in a speech also renewing his criticism of 'corporate welfare'. Hockey appealed to people not to judge his May 13 budget on what they got or lost in the short term. It was about 'our quality of life for the years ahead'."
Also: Audit not privy to multibillion-dollar direct action plan to reduce emissions (Lisa Cox, The Age)
And: Election promises are there for the breaking (Chris Berg, The Drum)
"The letter by a Save the Children Australia worker to the charity’s Nauru contractors expresses 'extremely alarming' allegations of 'mistreatment and inappropriate behaviour' directed at asylum seekers by guards employed by Wilson Security, also now contracted at the Manus Island facility."
"In a move that marks the first time Australian uranium would be sold to the Middle East, Trade Minister Andrew Robb is fast-tracking a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE)... a country with a secretive, unelected government situated in one of the world’s most insecure regions."
"This is succession planning. It's about laying down memories in Australia against the time the Queen dies. The first tour is the one that matters – the tour with the young couple and the baby, the gloss not worn off their marriage and possible princely misdemeanours of the child far in the future."