What price a “surplus”
Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan are clinging to their rhetoric about announcing a budget surplus in May next year like it’s a political life-raft. But like many of the boats that keep on coming, this raft is taking on water at a rapid rate.
For days now some Labor MPs have been publicly questioning the increasingly desperate insistence by the Treasurer and the Prime Minister that they will get the budget into the black for 2013/14. Last Thursday night government whip Joel Fitzgibbon said on Sky news: “I’d give it up.”
“We’ve got monetary and fiscal budget policy running in different directions ... The public will understand things are still bad in the international market place.” This on the day it was reported Treasury had advised the government to abandon its commitment.
But this week we’ve seen just how far the Government is prepared to go to and again it’s own back bench is not happy.
News that was supposed to be contained until the New Year leaked on Monday night that the government would transfer $387 million from the foreign aid budget back on to Australian soil to help pay for the care of the growing number of asylum-seekers in detention.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr has maintained it is entirely appropriate but the uproar has extended from the Greens to the Opposition, and now into the ALP Caucus.
WA Backbencher Melissa Park went on the record with Fairfax, saying: “We’re a wealthy developed country … and we shouldn’t be balancing our budget on the backs of the extreme poor. That is not the act of a good global citizen”
It is also pointless.
$387 million might be a lot to cut from the aid budget, especially after the Government has already fallen short of its Millennium Development Goal, but it’s not going to save the surplus.
Having predicted a meager $1.5 billion surplus next year in the forecasts contained in the 2012 May Budget, in last-month’s MYEFO update that figure was whittled down to just $1.1 billion. Even that is still ambitious.
A couple of days after MYEFO the Government revealed it’s total take from the Mining Tax was a grand total of $0.
Treasury is telling the Government to abandon the pretense. Economists are telling it no-one expects miracles. And even Caucus is admitting it’s a fool’s errand.
If Swan somehow finds a way to announce a surplus to the May lock-up, there is absolutely no guarantee that is what will be delivered (last year’s deficit was supposed to be $22 billion and turned out to be $43 billion).
A cut to the aid budget isn’t going to rock any major boats in the electorate, but the shifty accounting is an admission the border protection policy is not just a humanitarian disaster but a financial one.
It is neither the right thing to do, or good politics.
Gillard and Swan should pay attention to what’s going on in their own Caucus.
Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEDT.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…