The Politics    Friday, May 22, 2015

RIP Budget 2015

By Sean Kelly

The budget is as good as gone already – just what the government wanted

I returned to politics-watching this morning after ten days spent in the Northern Territory. There, I had studiously avoided the daily media cycle. Not a newspaper, not a radio bulletin, not a 6 pm television fix. Until today, I knew nothing of the budget, its contents or its reception. It was bliss.

Yawning in the early light, I ventured courageously outdoors, into the pelting Sydney rain, and picked up each of the four daily papers available to me in print: the Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph and the Australian Financial Review. My strategy was simple: start from today’s budget news and work backwards, until I had formed a full picture of what had happened.

I’ve done all that now, and formed various views, some of which will dribble out over the weeks to come. But the really remarkable thing was this: just ten days after the federal budget, not one of those four mastheads carried a single front-page news story about that budget.

Before I left, I suggested in this column that the government would like the budget to be over in a few days, and that, if they handled the post-budget period as cleverly as they had handled the lead-up, then so it would be. They have done well, then: the budget is as good as dead.

There have been some stumbles, of course, the usual Hockey idiocies and some iron ore confusion, but none of that will hurt too much. There are still some arguments ahead, and not everything will get through the senate. But politically these are minor matters. Budget 2015 as a concept, as an icon, as a potentially fraught political weather event, has passed, leaving little to remember it by.

The most important aspect of this achievement does not reside in the budget itself. It resides instead in the prime minister finally beginning to deliver on the single most significant promise he made prior to the last election: to get politics – or at least politics with a capital “P” – off the front page.

That, more than anything, is what voters demanded at the last election.

And so, despite the constant soundbite tomfoolery, despite the reckless inattention to the many maladies that ail Australia, and despite a seeming inability to engage in reasoned debate about matters of substance, the prime minister may well have stumbled (or re-stumbled) upon his path to victory. 

The discovery of that path, and its implementation as strategy, didn’t happen in the last ten days. It began a month or two ago. But if another Abbott victory is indeed the way history turns, then this budget will eventually be seen as the moment that strategy, with all its dire implications for actually doing anything meaningful, was set in stone. 

An anonymous account of what it’s like to work in a Centrelink call centre.

The president of the Boy Scouts says “the ban on gay troop leaders is unsustainable”.  

And Ireland may be about to become the first nation to legalise gay marriage by referendum.

Two interesting columns in the Australian today: Dennis Shanahan on why Abbott unplugged is close to Abbott unhinged,  and David Crowe on Bill Shorten’s wet lettuce leaf.

Which elements of the budget might not get through the senate.

The NSW Coroner’s examination of the Lindt cafe siege.

Terry Barnes on political name-calling.

Bill Shorten says Tony Abbott is insulting Australia’s intelligence on the Myanmar and Bangladesh refugee crisis.

Michael Pascoe on why both parties are failing us on super. 

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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