The Battle of the Budget

Today’s The Australian reports that “senior sources” in the Coalition support the recalibration of the social welfare structure along the lines suggested in a report by McClure, which apparently says the system has “spun out of control”. That is driven home by The Australian’s editorial below on “Fixing a broken welfare system”.  (The McClure report has not yet been released.)

It is astonishing that, after comments made well before the budget by “senior sources” that the age of entitlements needs to end, statements  are only now being made that a new system is needed. Equally, how come that the supposed virtues of the New Zealand system are only just being discovered? Why wasn’t a comprehensive report on social welfare commissioned as soon as the Coalition took office?

The seriousness of the failure to publish a preparatory budget analysis of the case for reducing spending is highlighted in an article by Andrew Bolt on what might be described as The Palmer Problem and the unhelpful attitude being taken by Turnbull (see below). In his TV interview with Bolt yesterday, Abbott was on the defensive and unable (politically) to criticise Palmer.

Of course, Palmer would still be a problem even if timely preparatory material had been published. But such preparatory publication and public debate would have limited any drop in polling and placed the Coalition in a much better position to press for the passage of the budget and, failing that, a double dissolution.

While it is not too late to publish, it now  seems likely that the best the Coalition can do is to run a defensive budget campaign which accepts higher spending and deficits and blames Labor for those.