Finally that one night of the year where the government of the day outlines the broad priorities (and not so much priorities) to be focused on in the coming fiscal year has come and gone. It has been an extraordinary period leading up to and including the budget with leaks and announcements far outstripping those of previous years, probably down to the fact that the government, so badly suffering in the polls needs as much clear air and momentum as they can get, if only to simply keep treading water.
So what is the state of play with some of the projections on the state of the budget for 2012-13 and beyond?
Well, the Gillard Government, through Treasurer Wayne Swan announced this that after year after year of deficits the fiscal year ahead would see a surplus achieved of $1.5 billion according to their word anyway. Not only that, but according to projections, the next 3 budgets after that would also be in surplus, with the leftover funds growing year by year over that period.
The budget papers announced that over $33 billion would be cut from the budget to make way for the very slim $1.5 billion dollar surplus with defence spending a massive loser, being cut by approximately $5.5 billion
For all the fuss over the cuts and deferrals of spending announced in the fiscal statement, there was also a number of new announcements outlined in the papers, not least of which includes a $3.2 billion package for aged care and $1 billion over four years for the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the latter a much talked about but until now lacking in detail initiative.
But alas the exercise tonight for the Gillard Government was more about political ends and achieving a budget surplus in an attempt to regain at least some political favour. Journalists tonight by and large certainly seemed more than willing to assist the Labor Party in their quest to be widely celebrated for the budget, with many consistently referring to the budget, which won’t see its final results until mid next year at the earliest, constantly referring to the budget actually being back in surplus when that is so far from certain.
Indeed, with a wafer thin surplus of only $1.5 billion and with still uncertain global conditions and the possibility of future domestic shocks, not to mention new and necessary spending requirements, the idea that the budget would even be in surplus when the time comes is at best incredibly iffy.
The budget has been and will be viewed as a win for many low and middle income earners, with the odd exception mixed in and a loss and letdown for business who had hoped for and expected much more from the government given the rhetoric.
The big sell begins now. The Government have certainly tried to buy back some votes, but it seems incredibly unlikely that the budget will be a game-changer when the players are not even listening anymore and have stopped participating in some cases.