I really did hope that this year’s Budget Lockup would be better than last year’s. How much can a girl take?
Sadly, I have to report that it was worse. It is just so hard to concentrate on thousands of pages of fairytales, all the while knowing that you have to bash out some vaguely coherent commentary.
And then there is the distraction of the ministers and their teenage minders swanning through the place, trying to grab the attention of the persons deemed to be most important in the room.
Some of the senior bureaucrats also float through. I did have a chat to one of them in order to tackle the mangled use of the word ‘save’, to include tax increases. He did not seem to have a problem with combining cuts to expenditure with tax increases.
His reply was that “the impact on the figures is the same”. I guess this is the Canberra view of the world – just up the tax burden and Bob’s your uncle. Don’t worry about any second round effects.
Budget Paper No. 1 looked like a very rushed piece of work. Some of the charts did not have labels on the axes and quite a lot of the prose did not make sense. And there is such so much repetition.
And as for this weird exposition of setting out ten year projections of expenditure on particular programs (DisabilityCare and Gonski) and then arbitrarily attaching particular revenue lines and ‘saves’ to the various years – I really wonder who dreamt this up? These diagrams did not show that these programs are ‘funded’ – after all, all expenditure commitments have to be covered, one way or another, given the government’s commitment to run a net budget surplus in the medium term (stop that guffawing, Cats).
The one thing that these charts do tell us is that the costs of these two large programs do not ramp up until beyond the forward estimates and just before the election after this one – around 2016-17.
One of the most amazing things about the lockup is the sheer number of people who are prepared to be jailed for 5+ hours. My assessment is that close to a third – maybe more – are not journalists but lobbyists, NGO types, industry association workers, etc.
I’m not sure why they would do it. I guess some of them appear on the media relatively quickly and therefore feel they need to be briefed.
I’m hoping someone might see the sense of ditching the lockup in the future.