Budget battle moves to social media
The Prime Minister has taken to YouTube to defend the budget, while Labor uses social media to hammer the government.PT0M0S 620 349
- Fears consumers will vote with their wallets
- Analysis: Dilemma a taxing question as pundits ponder alternative
It is no mere coincidence that unhappy voters make unhappy consumers. The two indices measure different things but they measure them in the same people.
It is becoming increasingly clear to voters that the electorally poisonous GST was the light-absorbing elephant in the room. Now it is visible.
It should surprise no one, therefore, that after a growth-dampening budget parading its intention to make life materially harder for millions of Australians, people are walking away from the government - and they are clutching their wallets as they go.
Consumer confidence figures released on Tuesday and taken since the budget a week before reflected this dual-track descent. Where the Fairfax-Nielsen poll on Monday showed voters disillusioned over a litany of broken promises and ''unfair'' outcomes, the ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence index charted a further 3.2 per cent decline to 100.4 in the week ending May 18.
A downward trend in spending sentiment started in the shambolic weeks leading up to the budget and has fallen a total of 14 per cent since then.
The survey company notes this is ''the steepest decline over a four-week period since the series became weekly in October 2008''.
In other words, since before the global financial crisis hit, which is pretty remarkable in itself.
Confidence is expected to soften further, although longer-term sentiment looks more encouraging.
Exacerbating the electorate's darkening mood is a palpable sense of having been comprehensively had. ''Had'' by politicians who apparently lacked the courage to say openly what was coming.
It gets worse than the backflips announced on budget night itself such as the up-front GP payment, the fuel tax increase, the deficit levy and numerous welfare contractions.
One week on from the budget and it is becoming increasingly clear to voters that the electorally poisonous GST was the light-absorbing elephant in the room. Now it is visible. A jaw-dropping $80 billion cut in projected health and education grants to the states over the decade was designed to get the states' attention, and it did just that.
Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have hardly bothered to disguise this power-play in succeeding days.
They figure the GST is the answer to the structural revenue problem but want the states to carry the can for increasing its 10 per cent rate, broadening its base to include fresh food and other exclusions, or both.
Yet if the reaction to the budget was bad, the risk of a new hit to the hip pockets of voters threatens to be fatal.
This is the ultimate clash of retail politics and retail reality, which is why Abbott and Hockey have promised no changes this term. But having just broken their word so brazenly, voters might struggle to believe them.
In any event, strong-arming the states into wearing the political odium of raising a tax collected by the Commonwealth is about as convincing a device as the sleeper hold in World Championship Wrestling.