Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Today by Nick Feik

Budget 2019: papering over the cracks
The budget’s gifts and promises are unlikely to impress a disillusioned public

Image of Josh Frydenberg and Mathias Cormann


Paddy Manning is in the budget lock-up, and will file his column this evening, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s a rough guide to what we can expect from the government: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, delivering his first budget, will project a surplus while also trying to provide a bag of pre-election sweeteners. It will include a few billion on transport infrastructure, some cash handouts intended to subsidise rising power prices, tax cuts for middle-income earners, yet more concessions for over-65s, as well as some small funding promises in health, vocational education, drought support and targeting corporate misconduct.

There’ll be one or two surprises, but Frydenberg’s objective will be straightforward: to build the case that the Coalition are “responsible economic managers” while simultaneously splashing around as much in pre-election spending promises as possible.

With various economic indicators softening, and housing values still dropping, there is significant uncertainty about Australia’s economic outlook over the next year or two. But while resource prices are high, unemployment is low and company tax receipts are solid, the Coalition can still at least mount the case that it is a safe custodian of “the economy”. Prepare for some self-satisfied rhetoric.

In truth, the public is looking for more than the government can deliver in this budget. On a range of issues, the Coalition has proven it’s out of ideas, and will be preaching the same prescriptions as ever (tax cuts and other neoliberal staples). Meanwhile, wage stagnation and cost-of-living pressures won’t be addressed in any substantive way, nor will the Coalition’s lack of climate and energy policies, nor the ongoing malaise around social services, public health and education. Fundamentally, this budget is unlikely to restore faith in Morrison’s Coalition, or in its ability to provide stable and sensible government. At best it will paper over the cracks.


“BREAKING!! After 5 years of campaigning, there will be a Royal Commission! This urgently needed investigation is now a reality because of us; because of the disability activists who fought tirelessly, alongside our Greens movement, to see justice done. Today, we have won.”

Greens senator Jordon Steele-John reacts to news that today’s budget will include $527 million for a disability royal commission, with the final terms of reference expected to be announced on Friday.


“I merely pointed out that immigration from Muslim countries invariably escalates terror attacks … I was never blaming the victims.”

Former One Nation senator Fraser Anning shows “no remorse” over his remarks in the wake of the Christchurch massacre on his way into parliament to face a censure motion today.

The Number

The renewed funding committed to in today’s budget for the ABC’s enhanced news-gathering initiative over the next three years.

The Policy

“Over the next decade, the ageing population is projected to subtract 0.4 percentage points from the annual real growth in revenue and add 0.3 percentage points to the annual real growth in spending. In real dollar terms, this equates to an annual cost to the budget of around $36 billion by 2028–29. This is larger than the projected cost of Medicare in that same year.”

The list

“Despite their ideological differences, Lyle says that working with Thorley remains a career highlight. ‘I liked Di a lot,’ he says. Thorley is less diplomatic about Shelton. Unlike the polite pastor, she doesn’t give backhanded compliments. She quotes Sun Tzu: ‘If you sit by the river long enough the body of your enemy will float past.’ ‘My mate the happy clapper?’ she spits. ‘He’s a duplicitous little shit.’” 


“Australian dance is in the midst of an interesting quandary: it wants to engage with political questions around identity, but it also wants to hold onto its history of formal abstraction, where a dancing body might simply be a dancing body. (The most insidious manifestation of this is the phrase “pure dance”, used by some white choreographers to describe formal works.)”


“[Hanson] is a great political act. Killer Queen to some, Evil Sister to others, she’s a never-ending drama of near scrapes, silly stunts and men who done her wrong: John Pasquarelli, David Oldfield, David Ettridge, Brian Burston, Fraser Anning, Malcolm Roberts. All have either been dumped or a disappointment. And now her sole senate colleague, West Australian Peter Georgiou, faces relegation from the No. 1 spot on the ticket as Perth party room heavies try to limit the Al Jazeera damage. Can her latest svengali, James Ashby, survive Washington?” 

Nick Feik

Nick Feik is the editor of The Monthly.



The Monthly Today

Surveillance grates

The government’s response to the Richardson review needs close scrutiny

Image of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

Game over

Premier Berejiklian’s position is untenable

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cold comfort

The Morrison government gave us a recession we didn’t have to have

Image of Government Services Minister Stuart Robert

Government dis-services

Stuart Robert is doing the PM’s dirty work

From the front page

Surveillance grates

The government’s response to the Richardson review needs close scrutiny

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Overlapping exhibitions by the two abstract artists convey their shared radical modernism

In light of recent events

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Pale blue dot

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