Last night the Australian Federal Budget came down, and it was mostly pretty boring. Apparently this year 'responsibility' is in, with measures (ie great big taxes on the resources sector and tobacco) the key to a planned return to surplus a few years early.
It would of course have been nice to see some signs of an actual real policy direction or two rather than just some whimpy posturing, but that is more than one can reasonably expect of this Government.
In fact the figure that speaks the loudest about what the Government's preoccupations are (viz firefighting and keeping control over what Ministers might get up to over actual policy development) is the boost of staff in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet from around 500 to 700. Oh for the days when Prime Ministers actually slept at night and their care and feeding required far less than half that....(though it has to be admitted that it was the Howard Government that was responsible for a fair swag of centralist expansion, despite coming to office with a promise to cut PM&C to 90 or so).
Predictably, the various social justice lobby groups are put out at the lack of goodies to promote social inclusion.
Well folks, remember that we have an election campaign coming up. There will be plenty of goodies. The challenge for all lobbies is to make the case for why their preferred targets should get the loot.
And to remember that in the end, the overall health of the economy is far more likely to make a real difference to the poor and underprivileged than any individual targeted measures. What in the end is better after all - boosting the level of unemployment benefits or getting someone a job? I can assure you it is the latter!
Indeed one of the more interesting commentaries goes to one of the debates we are probably going to have to have later this year, namely was the Government excessively profligate in its stimulus package response to the Global Financial Crisis (poor delivery issues aside), and how much credit can the Government claim for our reasonably healthy economic state (well assuming it doesn't all fall apart as a result of the Resources Tax and interest rate increases).
Crikey's Possum Comitatus argues that some of the data in the budget papers gives a boost to good old-fashioned Keynesianism, showing that the bigger the stimulus package, the higher a nation's GDP last year was. It suggests that had the Opposition gotten their way and the package been much smaller, we would have had zero or even negative economic growth rather than the 1.4% growth we actually had.