The Politics    Friday, May 8, 2015

Too clever?

By Sean Kelly

The government’s budget strategy might be too smart for its own good

The first gap has opened up in the government’s so-far-so-good budget strategy of ensuring a few winners, not too many egregious losers, and no fights that guarantee defeat.

For weeks the government has been flagging a huge package for jobs and families to be announced in the budget. Last night the government’s appointed (perhaps self-appointed) budget salesman, Scott Morrison, fronted Leigh Sales on 7.30.

He told us two things. Firstly, that the name for the package would probably be “Jobs for Families”, which to me sounds a little bit like we’ll be sending kids down coalmines. But no matter.

More important, he said that Jobs for Families would be “tied to Family Tax Benefit savings that were put forward in last year's budget”. That is, cuts to family payments that were blocked by the senate last year, and which the government hopes to pass this year.

Hockey has always maintained that last year’s budget was fundamentally correct, and has refused to rhetorically back down from its strict measures, even while the prime minister acknowledged that it had gone too far, and promised nothing but dullness this time around.

At the same time, Hockey has suggested that we’ll see exciting new spending on families in this year’s budget, not a huge number of spending cuts, and a shrinking deficit, even in the face of falling revenue – which has always seemed an impossible combination.

But now we’re seeing how the government might have squared that circle.

They’re hoping for no fight on their largely loser-free childcare package. They’ll probably get that.

They’ll pay for the childcare package with those cuts to family payments that were too unpopular to pass last year – hoping that they’ll go largely unremarked, as: (a) they’re a year old; and (b) they’re now being presented in the context of a much more friendly budget, as opposed to the poisonous concoction we got last year. 

Maybe it will work. Perhaps the media will ignore the cuts on the basis that they’re old news (they haven’t got a lot of traction today). And perhaps senators will get on side, reasoning that they don’t want to be seen as standing in the way of jobs for families. (Are you against jobs? No! Are you against families? No! Then you must support Jobs for Families!)

Or perhaps it will have the unwanted side-effect of tying this year’s innocuous budget to last year’s arsenic sandwich.

We’ll find out soon enough.

David Cameron was re-elected prime minister of the United Kingdom today. He looks to have won clearly, in defiance of pretty much every pre-election poll, which predicted the major parties would end up at even stevens. This is US polling expert Nate Silver on why the world may have a polling problem.

Labour leader Ed Miliband will be under pressure from at least some in his party to resign. He’s a symbol of just how brutal politics can be. Just hours ago he must have believed he might be PM. Now the end of his career may be just hours away.

For ongoing updates I’ve found the Guardian live blog a good source. Here’s an American site pontificating on what the Conservative victory may mean for the European Union. And here’s how one newspaper changed their front page as news became clearer.

In other EU news, some solid detective work has revealed that the woman at the centre of one of the most incisive class analyses of the 1990s, Pulp’s hit song ‘Common People’, may have been based on the wife of the current Greek finance minister.

Maurice Newman believes that climate change is a hoax perpetrated in order to impose “a new world order under the control of the UN”. The same Maurice Newman is chairman of the prime minister’s Business Advisory Council. That’s the Australian prime minister. And no, this isn’t a hoax.

More slow-drip childcare news: $300 million from Santa Morrison to help vulnerable and disadvantaged children access childcare. And the SMH has an analysis of just how much media Morrison has been doing.

Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, has called on men to champion women’s rights.

Simon Benson on judgment days approaching for Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, and Bill Shorten.

Another SBS reporter sacked for social media activity.

The nation has a new Renewable Energy Target after the two major parties reached agreement.

The Reserve Bank has refused to rule out further rate cuts. It also lowered its growth forecast.

A strong El Nino effect on the way, and what that means for the climate change debate.

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and was an adviser to Labor prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.


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