LAST night’s federal budget delivered on a promise to return our nation’s financial position to surplus but did so at a cost.
If this was the budget to deliver a bounce in Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s approval rating and the fortunes of her party, it had to inspire thoughts of a new direction.On this point, the jury remains out.
The implementation of the carbon tax – due to start on July 1 – has created a series of flow-on impacts, including significant hand-outs for families which, the Opposition claims, will wear the brunt of the policy’s flow-on increases in the cost of living. This policy marks the centrepoint for many of the other initiatives and decisions announced by Treasurer Wayne Swan last night. The budget does deliver significant incentives for low and middle class families – seemingly at the expense of those in more affluent socio-economic groups – and important steps in the area of assistance for people with a disability, public dentistry and the aged care system. These commitments support the theory of Labor getting back to its roots.
Despite these considerable complications, Mr Swan remained true to his word about delivering a surplus – if only just. Whether this was achieved only because Labor could not bear the criticism which would be associated with another broken promise, or if, as it reiterated last night, it was the responsible course of action given continuing uncertainty in the global economic situation, will be debated. While it might have economically been unnecessary, objectively, a surplus is a sign of responsible management.
For Ballarat, residents will need to take solace in the commitment to improving health and job initiatives in regional Australia, as, apart from already announced projects, there is little in new visionary developments for our city. This said, there will be thousands of local residents who will reap the benefits of the measures for middle class families.
After a tumultuous 18 months, the government will be hoping last night’s budget is a fresh start and provides a way of changing the debate to policy issues, rather than controversies over its leadership and criticism over the handling of the Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson issues.
The hard sell began last night and, despite the benefits for families, it’s still difficult to think that it’s going to get any easier for the government in the foreseeable future.