It is difficult to find much in the way of compliments for the 2017-18 estimated budget presented by the Turnbull government, or for the budget projections (not estimates) for the following three years. It appears, rather, to involve the abandonment of the policy of “smaller government”, but without saying so. Indeed it is difficult to say what the Liberal Party under Turnbull now stands for. Various remarks made in public by Turnbull and Scott Morrison left something to be desired in regard to the functioning of the economy, particularly in regard to justifying (sic) the levy on major banks, and presenting an encouraging message. Several commentators have suggested that the rationale is to adopt policies similar to those pursued by Labor in the hope that this will improve the Coalition’s polling. Shorten has rejected this and will doubtless have more to say about it in his reply on Thursday evening (but he will likely retain the deficit levy on higher income groups, which the Coalition says it will abolish as promised ).
Whether the Coalition will have enough seats to form government remains unclear and it is by no means certain that it will be able to remain in government. But one or two certainties are clear. Most importantly, the governing of Australia will be much more difficult, perhaps as difficult as it was under Whitlam when the initial budget was put together by Whitlam and his Deputy on their own. The Turnbull government has already introduced a budget but that has still be considered by Parliament. Labor will doubtless argue that Turnbull’s bad election result means that this budget needs to be revised. As Terry McCrann points out below, any budget now needs to alsotake account of the likely reduction in Australia’s AAA credit rating.
I circulated yesterday copies of articles by Andrew Bolt and Niki Savva discussing the Prime Ministership of Tony Abbott and the role played by Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin. I made strong criticism of the Savva comments, particularly that Abbott had performed worse than Rudd and the implication she left (without any supporting evidence) that he had slept with Credlin. I did not mention that I had previously written to The Australian criticising its handling of Savva comments, particularly by giving unwarranted attention to considerable amounts of what seemed to largely be gossip.