Recipients of my recent Commentaries will be well aware of my expressions of concern about the budget outlook in the last couple of weeks. Friday’s Commentary expressed additional concerns after the publication by the heads of Treasury and Finance in PEFO of their concerns, albeit expressed diplomatically (at the same time it was reported that Treasury head Fraser would resign after the election: he will be a serious loss and his successor under either party will find him difficult to follow). I also drew attention to the Spectator Article by John Stone, which not only savaged the Coalition’s budget but pointed out that neither Labor nor “independent” journalist commentators have (with one or two exceptions) drawn attention to the seriousness of the economic problem Australia now faces. I concluded by suggesting that the Coalition should acknowledge the problem and indicate that after the election it will start a program of reducing spending by at least 2% of GDP over the next three years.
At a time when in January the IMF revised down its global GDP forecast for 2016 from 3.6% to 3.4%, and also forecast a fall of 9.5% in non-oil commodity prices (after a fall of 17.4% last year), Treasurer Scott Morrison is justified in repeating his boast that today’s December quarter GDP increase of 0.6% (seasonally adjusted) shows Australia is continuing to grow well above the average in the OECD. In fact, the trend in GDP growth has edged up slightly since 2013.
With minimal editorial change, today’s Australian has published a letter of mine praising the virtues of the present Australian political system. The Letters Ed interpreted it more as an attack on the US system (which it is indirectly) but its main intent is to question the merits of the alternatives proposed for us, including the republican one for which our current PM led the charge in the 1999 referendum but is now suggesting that any move should await the death of the Queen. While he knows Prince Charles favours a republic, he is off track even there: as the monarchical head for Australia Charles would have no legal power or influence on policy.