Originally published in ABC The Drum on May 9, 2011

Budget one-upmanship in Australia has moved beyond the balanced-budget obsession of the 1990s to the new aim of producing an ongoing surplus, the bigger the better, under which it is taken for granted that everyone will be better off. Despite the recent natural disasters offering good reasons for the Gillard Government to reassess its commitment to returning the budget to surplus in 2012-13, the Government has ploughed on, instead deciding that it would prefer to trim the budget rather than face up to a posturing Opposition. Indeed the finance minister, Senator Penny Wong, has defended the need for budget cuts by arguing that “spending today is locking in a tax burden tomorrow”.

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