Swan reveals genuine Labor reforms - but will it matter?
It is not just policy settings that determine macroeconomic outcomes. Psychology and confidence play important roles too.
Wayne Swan, who has held Treasury throughout the life of the government, is the Euromoney magazine's finance minister of the year. Graph after graph in the budget papers show Australia's economic performance well ahead of comparable countries.
But for all of the assertiveness of the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, the government is running scared. The carbon pricing scheme begins in seven weeks — a transformative policy that will affect every Australian and recast the nation's economic relationships. Of the 156 sentences in tonight's budget speech, six refer to the carbon tax. But Swan does not use the words ''carbon tax'', referring instead to ''the price on carbon pollution'' — once.
Initiatives on dental care, the disability insurance scheme, aged care and skills are, as Swan says, genuine Labor reforms.
But will it matter? The carbon tax is the greatest category killer in modern Australian political history. Swan has held treasury since 2004, under four Labor leaders.
He first went to work for the Labor cause at 24 when he joined the staff of then leader Bill Hayden in 1978, and he later worked for the late Mick Young and Kim Beazley and was secretary of the Queensland branch.
His technocratic background has helped him deal with the multitude of moving parts in an economy big enough to warrant G20 membership.
But it has not developed his skills as a public figure who can capture the imagination and inspire the confidence of the public. Call it Swan's Paradox.