As history’s longest campaign drags on, I’m monitoring the things that are driving people crazy most. One such irritation is the constant haggling about the Budget, the financial cost of election promises, and how they are being funded. People tell me everywhere I go that they are sick of it all and so they should be.
The fact is that under the Charter of Budget Honesty (which has been law for more than a decade), the major parties are held to account for every dollar they promise. That’s why we have what they call the Pre-election Economic & Financial Outlook (PEFO). The PEFO re-sets the Budget. In other words it gives us an update on the state of the Budget. From there, the major parties are held to account for every promise. If they don’t match the spend with a saving elsewhere (either raising a tax or cutting funding from another area) the party making the promise must accept that it will have a bigger Budget deficit (or a lower surplus) than the other party.
Unlike “the good old days”, the system can’t be fudged. Under the Charter of Budget Honesty every dollar has to be accounted for.
So forget the Government’s allegations that Labor’s promises on Gonski (education), health and other initiatives are unaffordable, it’s rubbish. Indeed the allegations are an attempt to justify the Coalition’s unwillingness to make the same commitment to the areas Labor believes are most important. That’s what this election is becoming; a battle over priorities. Labor has found savings of more than $70 billion to fund our key spending promises. Most of it comes from cuts to superannuation tax concessions for very high income earners, an increase in the tobacco excise, and changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax arrangements.
The Coalition’s approach by contrast, is to prioritise wealthy individuals over improvements to our health and education systems. This is why the Coalition is trying so hard to make out Labor’s commitments are unaffordable, to mask the fact that their spending is going to those who need it least.
Sadly you can expect to hear more of it because the only alternative available to them is to just admit their priorities are different and then, try to justify them. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that confession!
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