Remember the economy stupids?
The Treasurers debate in Canberra today was a good one by the standards of these ministerial rumbles.
It was also worthwhile watching because it reminds us there is a pretty important economic debate in this election that has largely been overshadowed by the Labor leadership hoopla.
Prior to Labor’s knifing of Kevin Rudd and its back down on the mining tax, this election was one that was set almost solely to be about tax. Now, despite the best efforts of the Coalition and smaller miners, the mining tax has largely been neutralised as an issue.
What’s then left over as the chief point of economic tension? Well a hodgepodge of debates that we’ve been having for about the last year is the answer.
It’s Labor’s debt and deficit (as the Liberals would argue) versus the Liberal’s uncosted economically irresponsible campaign promises (or so goes Labor). There was also the usual interest rate, inflation size comparing contest that usually goes on between the two men.
Hockey was standing by their commitment to introduce its generous paid parental leave scheme, despite it being reliant on a levy on big companies:
“We will roll out the paid parental leave scheme as it stands”, he told the National Press Club today.
When Wayne Swan was asked why Kevin Rudd was ousted despite the Government’s economic success, he said it had been a “gut wrenching decision” and gave this circular answer:
“We changed because there was a feeling in the caucus we needed a change.”
Swan was sticking to lines that he’d used a countless times before, on “staring down” the world recession, and arguing that if the Coalition had been in power we’d all be rooned.
The problem for Labor here is that it’s much harder to point to things that haven’t happened than things that have: like a large surplus turning into a deficit.
The Government is increasingly keen to cast Tony Abbott as irresponsible on the economy, using quotes from John Hewson and Peter Costello to attack the opposition leader in recent days.
But there’s a strange feel to the economic debate this election that is different from what it would’ve been had a recession or the mining tax been the central issue. It’s about who will handle an economy that will continue to grow, not one endangered by a recession.
For all Labor’s success with economy in its first term, the end result could favour the Coalition. The public’s belief that the Australian economy will be growing and heading back into surplus, paradoxically, affords them the luxury to take a political gamble that previously they may not have risked.
What do you think?
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