The Politics    Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Limbo

By Sean Kelly

Soon we’ll know everything

As you read this, the budget has already been released – sort of.

In a series of labyrinthine corridors, in Parliament House, journalists, arranged like abacus beads along long beige desks, are hunched like gargoyles over columns and columns of numbers. They cannot leave, because they are locked in. Security guards watch the doors. The journalists are allowed no contact with the outside world. They have been given the sacred text of the 2015 budget, and they are trying to figure out what it means.

The budget is a huge and complex document. It takes genuine skill and experience to dig into the numbers and the abstruse language to get at the meaning buried beneath. Most of us, left alone with the raw text of the budget for a month, could not decipher a hundredth of what it means for our lives or for the lives of those close to us. Tonight is a moment when we place an enormous reliance on our press.

At 7.30 pm, as the treasurer stands to speak, technology means we will immediately gain access to the reports, opinions, and analyses of these high priestesses and priests of economic wisdom. They will differ from each other, of course, but at some point over the next week – or perhaps even over the next 24 hours – a consensus will emerge, informed partly by expert reaction and partly by public reactions to that expert reaction. The questions that genuinely trouble the government will rise to the top. The political divisions will become clear. The budget’s success will be judged.

Until then, we wait.

Note: In a display of an extraordinary sense of timing I am away for the next week or so (actually just one of those coincidences). I am privileged to have Nick Feik, the editor of the Monthly, and Michael Lucy, the online editor, briefly taking the reins from me. I’ll be back next Friday. Good luck with the budget, and see you on the other side. Sean


The last of the budget leaks (neatly divided, incidentally, between the Australian, Fairfax, and the tabloids): The deficit will be smaller than anticipated, and smaller than Treasury predicted in December, coming in at $40 billion. That’s a rare pleasant surprise for the treasurer. Perhaps his luck is turning. And the 1.5% tax cut for small business will be extended to private and small operators. And there’s $450 million to fight homegrown terrorism.

The government’s new childcare plan is being questioned: where are the jobs and childcare places going to come from?

Details on yesterday’s Netflix tax announcement.

Peter Costello continues to ignore his own record of a high tax-to-GDP ratio by talking about the wonders of low taxes.

The PM’s use of the phrase “death cult” – is it a problem?

Kevin Rudd has confirmed he offered Peter Costello a diplomatic posting but has said it was after Costello had told him he had decided to leave parliament. In other words, according to Rudd it was not used to prevent Costello becoming Liberal leader.

John Singleton explains why he slashed at his millionaire mate’s ear with a broken wine glass after a long lunch.

The founder of the Motoring Enthusiasts Party has quit his job in Motoring Enthusiasts Party senator Ricky Muir’s office.

One of the founders of gene editing has concerns about her invention.

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.

@mrseankelly

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