Federal Budget 2013
Federal Budget includes little in the way of surprises with the usual promise of big savings and big spending, though not this election year.PT5M5S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2jkj6 620 349 May 14, 2013
''Now we enter a period where new choices must be made,'' the Treasurer told the nation during his Tuesday night budget speech.
The entire budget experience was shrouded with an air of finality.
It sounded ominous. Like something you would say to a child when gently breaking the news that his pet bunny must be euthanased.
''Darling, you know how we said Puggles' tumour was operable? Well … now we enter a period where new choices must be made.''
It was hard not to think about the end during yesterday's budget lock-up. Not just the end of the actual six-hour-long lock-up - which, when you're in there, feels as distant and elusive as Wayne Swan's promised surplus - but the probable end of the government.
The entire budget experience was shrouded with an air of finality. The heady days of the resources boom are over, and all we have to show for it is $200 million in mining tax revenue and an enlivened adult services industry in regional Western Australia. The baby bonus has been nixed - gone are the good old days when a middle class couple could have a Prosecco-fuelled date night and reap government cash nine months later. Tax on ciggies is going up, again, and the government has stopped pretending the carbon price is going to be north of $25 per tonne in 2015.
It was enough to make one come over all nostalgic. When Swan talked in his traditional lock-up news conference about ''getting the big calls right'' on the economy and treading a ''responsible pathway'' back to surplus, you almost felt like chucking him on the chin. There was a special encore appearance by the Modern Families we have heard so much about these past three years, and even the dear old Asian Century made a one-last-time comeback.
This sense of the end invoked a strange budgetary response in Swan. Instead of announcing the deficit figure, making a few nips to middle class welfare and wandering off into the fiscal horizon, the Treasurer went on a last-gasp budget planning binge.
The usual forward estimates period is four years, but this year Swan, ever the crazy rule-breaker, decided to announce 10-year budget plans for school funding, disability funding and infrastructure. A journalist at the press conference asked if he wasn't ''booby-trapping'' the budget for an incoming Coalition government, trying to lock them into policy spending that is not part of their agenda.
''Hardly,'' he said, as uncompromising as Colonel Kurtz in his jungle-bunker, just before the end. ''I think they have booby-trapped themselves.''
The economy is transitioning, we were repeatedly told. Some journalists squinted politely at the charts Swan projected on the wall for our benefit, their data pillars lining up like wonky teeth.
Other journalists didn't even wait until Swan had finished his news conference before transitioning themselves out of the room.