I think I understood why journalists – myself included – are always so eternally disappointed with federal budgets.
Forced to give up our phones and internet access for six hours in a budget “lockdown,” there is, of course, an attendant “good is better to be good” feeling.
There’s also an innate defensiveness born of the HSC-like pressure cooker environment in which you’re expected to deliver a jaw-dropping summary of the thousands of pages of information the Treasury dumps at you in one go.
Ultimately, budgets are nothing more than statements of expected income and expenditure over a given period, plus a calculation of the resulting surplus or deficit of funds.
And spoiler alert: the Treasury knows how to add up.
I think we in the Australian political diaspora continue to be so disappointed because we continue to hope that the treasurer’s budget speech will turn out to be something closer to the US president’s constitutional speech on “the state of The union “.
Dreaming of a big vision, what we actually get is little more than a family budget on steroids. Only, instead of income from work, there is money from taxes levied on corporate profits, individual salaries, purchases of goods and services and various other things like fuel excise . And instead of grocery bills and mortgages, there’s welfare and pensions to pay, and schools, health care, and subs.
Policies such as one-off tax cuts or ‘cost of living’ payments are just a drop in the ocean compared to the roughly half a trillion dollars that flow in and out of Canberra every year .
As boring as they may be in the end, budgets are, of course, a key part of our democracy.