Originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald on August 30, 2014

For American presidents, the ‘State of the Union’ address provides a once in a year opportunity to set out a plan for the direction the country needs to take and the policies required to get it there. The closest Australian governments get is the annual budget speech, and that is provided by the treasurer, not the prime minister.

Australia is one of the richest countries in the world and we live at the richest point in world history, yet elected governments spend far more time telling us what we can’t build than they do telling us what they want to build. The decision to conflate our public finances with our public ambitions in budget night speaks volumes about the Australian leader’s lack of confidence.

Of course, for leaders who lack a clear vision of how governments can help tackle some of our problems, what better excuse for timidity than a lack of funds. What better time to release a non-plan for the coming decades than the night a budget deficit is released.

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