Cast your mind back. Not too far.
Just a little.
Remember? It was the year Kevin Rudd made his short-lived comeback. For those who don’t know who the prime minister is today, let alone three years ago, it was also the year that analogue television was switched off in Australia.
Back then Wayne Swan was in charge of the nation’s piggy bank. He promised a land flowing with milk and honey and budget surpluses. True, Wayno never got to forecast what would happen right about now but he did have a stab at guestimating how rich we would all be last year.
He told us that in the 2016/17 financial year, the Commonwealth would have a surplus of $13.8 billion.
Australians laughed him out of office.
And then along came Smokin’ Joe Hockey. He learnt a little, but not a lot, off Wayne.
Joe learnt that forecasting a surplus in 2016/17 was fraught with danger. So he said we’d lose $4 billion last year and then made the silly, silly mistake of believing his own press and simply transferred the promised surplus to this year.
According to Joe Hockey’s first budget, back in May 2014, 2017/18 was supposed to see a surplus of $4.9 billion.
A year later and Joe was racking up the red pen and white out but not much else. All of a sudden, 2017/18 turned from a surplus to a deficit of $5.6 billion. By the time Scott Morrison stepped into Hockey’s shoes, it had all gone to custard.
As it turns out, Morrison now thinks this year will see about $20 billion added to the national credit card. Let’s hope he’s not merely being hopeful. Over the last four years the budget has blown out, on average, by $13 billion more than promised on budget night.
But if Sco Mo is even remotely right, it’s a turnaround of $25 billion in four short years since the planning began for this budget.
How does this happen? Firstly because the guys in government can’t count. Secondly because they don’t count on anyone else taking notice. And, thirdly, because last year they spent more than they planned to the tune of an extra $17 million every day.
Every. Single. Day.
If a school kid lost their lunch money they’d be disciplined. If a politician loses the nation’s fortune they expect to be re-elected.
Scott Morrison, on any analysis, seems to be less intent on fixing the budgetary crisis and more focused on simply doing what Swan and Hockey did: delivering deficits and promising surpluses at some distant point in the future.
He’s now telling us that we’ll not only be able to reach the land of milk, honey and surpluses in 2019/2020, but that along the way we’ll be able to conjure up extra billions to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) as well.
This program doesn’t even hit the budgetary books until next year. But when it does it will consist of an overnight $22 billion whack to the bottom line. Predictably for a massive government program, this one is already plagued with faults that have seen people with disabilities worse off thanks to the government’s ‘help’.
Morrison simply cannot be trusted here. Instead of delivering a surplus, he’s put Australia on a path that will see it eternally wander the Deficit Desert.
It’s time for some truths.
The first truth is that the government doesn’t have a problem raking in the dough. The average weekly wage in Australia has risen by 7% since 2013. The government’s weekly wage has grown at double that pace in that time. ‘Earnings’ (a politically correct label for taxes) have grown 14% since Wayne Swan’s last budget.
So that means we don’t need any new taxes at all and should even be able to afford tax cuts. But the Commonwealth has squandered the common wealth on unaffordable election promises like the NDIS.
And this is another hard truth that must be stomached. We simply cannot afford this program and the countless others like it. It is entirely wasteful, will not achieve its objectives and, even if it did, will send us bankrupt.
Last week Scott Morrison had an opportunity to be different, bold and useful. Options abounded, from selling off the ABC to redesigning tax rates to give single-income families a fair go. Instead he chose to set course for the same old, same old and locked in Labor’s reckless spending.
There is no difference between the philosophies of the red team and the blue team. They are headed in the same direction. The only choice they offer is one of personality.
Given the personalities on sale consist of Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten, one can only wonder at the polls that show so many Australians are still prepared to vote for either of these parties.