Budgets are a chance to set out a plan for the future. Only a politician could claim with a straight face that this budget is about anything but the government’s survival. You would be flattering this budget if you said it was a plan for the next 6 months. Really it is a plan to get through the next 8 weeks to the election.
I’ve spent over a decade covering and analysing budgets, and in that time, I have disagreed with the direction of some budgets, but I have never seen a budget so lacking in any direction, so devoid of any attempt to shape the future.
This is a massive waste. Both because it fails to take advantage of potential opportunities and because it kicks the can down the road in dealing with the challenges that Australia faces.
There is no reform in this budget. No reform of aged care despite a comprehensive plan from the Aged Care Royal Commission. No concrete steps for how to get to net zero emissions as quickly as possible. No attempt to reduce inequality and most importantly no thoughts on how to increase wages.
Like many budgets before it, this budget does confidently predict that wages are about to shoot up. But these are fantasy claims. We were told when unemployment got to the low 5% range that wages would increase. Then it was an unemployment rate that started with a ‘4’. Then it needed to be in the low 4% range. Now that official unemployment is 4%, we’re told it needs to be a number with a ‘3’ at the start. It seems regardless of the official unemployment rate; wages will increase when it is just a bit lower than it is now. In other words, the government has no plan to increase wages.
So, what has the budget delivered? There was a tax cut that will turn into a tax increase from next year. A cut to fuel excise that continues our reliance on foreign oil and makes us just as susceptible to future oil price shocks. One-off payments that try to offer relief for cost of living increases, that are only a problem because we have had stagnant wages growth for almost a decade.
When it comes to action this budget is the equivalent to running off to Hawaii while bushfires rage at home.