Rubbery figures and the Ghosts of Budgets Past
Amidst all the presents, food and rowdy family gatherings, Christmas has also traditionally been a time for pause and reflection.
The many modern variations of Charles Dickens’ classic cautionary tale A Christmas Carol, where a miserly old man is visited by the specter of a deceased friend who shows him the error of his ways by traveling through time to reveal the impact of his miserable actions, reveals how this story of reflection and redemption at Christmas time still rings true.
With Labor’s crisis mini-Budget (sneaked in after the Parliament rose for the year and while Australians started focusing on Christmas) revealing yet another deficit blow-out, I can’t help wondering if Julia and Wayne could do with a visit from the Ghost of Budgets Past.
Before I’m howled down about raking over the past (although, that is actually a crucial part of the whole reflection/redemption story) I’m not suggesting that they be dragged back too far in time.
In fact, you’d have to go back to 1989, almost a decade before Julia was even elected to Parliament, to find a Labor Budget that actually delivered a promised surplus.
So let’s just take them back to the 2007-08 Budget – the last delivered by the Coalition before Labor came to office. That Budget delivered a $20 billion surplus, the tenth surplus in a row, and Australia had $45 billion in the bank. Debt free.
OK – Ghost of Budgets Past, let’s take a look at what was promised on Budget night for the last four Labor Budgets…
To be totally fair, there will be no commentary on the merits of the spending (that critique could take from now to Christmas), just the bottom line figures promised by Wayne Swan in the Budget papers. That would be: $21.7 billion surplus (it ended up being a deficit), a $53.1 billion deficit, a $40.8 billion deficit, and a deficit of $22 billion this year.
Now, if Julia or Wayne have a calculator handy, they’d see that the sum total of those figures should mean that Labor planned to rack up about $94 billion in debt these past four Budgets - so with the $45 billion we already had in the bank, that would mean we’d be about $49 billion in debt, right?
Hmmm…time for the Ghost of Budget Present to swoop in. Let’s reveal what the sneaked in, revised mini-Budget in December actually shows. Well, for starters another $15 billion blow-out on the deficit promised in May (oops).
And those last four Labor Budgets actually delivered deficits totaling some $167 billion – yes, Wayne and Julia didn’t even stay close to within the means of the wild spending they were promising.
And Australia is now saddled with a net debt of $136 billion.
So what does this all mean Ghost of Budget Present? Surely, they’re just figures?
Well, for starters Australia is now borrowing $100 million every day and paying $100 million in interest every week to fund Labor’s debt-fuelled spending spree. That’s billions wasted that could be used to fund hospitals, schools, roads and vital infrastructure.
Make no mistake about it – just as surely as Scrooge’s miserly ways threatened the health of Tiny Tim, Labor’s wild spending impacts on the quality of life we’ll pass on to our kids.
For if the Ghost of Budgets Future reveals anything (once he stops laughing at Wayne’s insistence that a surplus will be delivered next financial year), it’s that future Governments will have to work hard to repay Labor’s debt and restore the economic security we had come to take for granted just four short years ago.
It’s Christmas time, so lets be generous and say that there’s a kind-of balance – Coalition Governments will repay debt, manage the economy better and deliver surpluses, Labor Governments are more inclined to spend “on the social good”.
That argument might hold weight if Labor was investing in valuable infrastructure for the future or doing positive things with the money they are borrowing. But they’re not. Pink batts, green cars, school halls, funding irregular entrants, and the wasteful, expensive NBN are all cases in point.
So at this time of reflection, perhaps Julia and Wayne could take a look back at their Budgets and through the revelation of their rubbery figures and unmet targets, see fit to change their reckless ways. Now that would truly be a Christmas miracle.
Merry Christmas to all Punch readers and here’s to more robust debate in 2012.
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