Government fails to impress with cautious pre-election budget.

Most of us will be old enough to remember the grand old days of Howard Government budgets.

The Coalition wooed the electorate with tax cuts and bonus payments. We were encourage to have babies, “one for mum, one for dad and one for the country,” Peter Costello famously quipped.

Rudd and Gillard budgets featured major nation building initiatives, money for big infrastructure projects, education reform funding, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, economic stimulus.

But above all else, the most common feature of budgets in history at this point in an election cycle is that the bells are rung loudly and the whistles blown with gusto.

This budget does neither of those things.

There’s no sweeteners for families, no big tangible vision.

For a pre-election budget, this would have to be the strangest one we’ve seen in living memory.

It’s cautious. It doesn’t want to annoy anyone. I suppose, it’s the kind of budget you would expect from a Government in trouble; one that’s gambling on a risky political manoeuvre to get it to an election as soon as possible in order to arrest a declining political performance.

The Coalition is running hard on a ‘jobs and growth’ mantra. They’ve announced plans to tackle multinational tax avoidance, a tax cut for businesses and for workers earning over $80,000 a year, and a new plan for ‘work for the dole’.

But, as ABC political commentator Annabel Crabb suggested, this is a budget that hurts people you’d be unlikely to chat to on the street.


There is enough tax relief for the Coalition’s base support and for business to allow Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison to maintain their preferred tagline as being “the party of lower taxes”, but where is the real reform? There’s nothing bold to this budget. Nothing decisive and no clear plan to transition to a new economy.

Perhaps there will be bells and whistles in the $1.6 billion for “decisions taken but not yet announced” that is hidden away in the budget papers.

Experienced political operators suggest that’s the Coalition’s insurance policy – essentially money set aside for the kind of election promises voters are used to seeing in their local communities in the days before and election is called. Cynical election watchers call that pork-barrelling.

It’s understood that there is also $1.89 billion of spending cuts included in the budget papers that also haven’t been announced. It would seem, Treasurer Morrison’s Budget Speech last night didn’t tell us the whole story.

In the meantime, the childcare reforms we had been promised would start in two months have been pushed out to 2018. There’s no movement on paid parental leave, woefully inadequate funding for women and children in domestic violence situations and the Australian Medical Association says the Government is moving us to a GP Co-payment by stealth by freezing the Medicare rebate for the next six years.

The Coalition better hope that their “decisions taken but not yet announced” give them a boost in the early days of the election proper, because this budget will not deliver the political boost Malcolm Turnbull needs as he heads into an election campaign.