If, as is widely predicted, the Treasurer delivers a budget surplus on Tuesday night it will be the first one in 15 years.
The last time an Australian government spent less than it made was when Wayne Swan announced a surplus of $19.7 billion - or 1.7 per cent of GDP - in September 2008.
The 2007-2008 budget had been framed by his Coalition predecessor Peter Costello. Mr Swan, Jim Chalmers' boss during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years, was sandbagged by the GFC. He was never able to deliver a surplus of his own despite promising to do so on many occasions.
The last time a federal Labor government delivered a surplus was in 1989 when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister and Paul Keating was the Treasurer - just before "the recession we had to have".
This is one of the reasons why the Albanese government has focused on presenting itself as fiscally responsible, even at the expense of alienating traditional supporters.
It has already come under fire for limiting the projected JobSeeker increase to over-55s and only lifting the cut-off age for children dependent on single parent benefits from eight to 14, not when they finish school.
That said, given concerns about the interest payments on nearly $1 trillion in debt expected to cost $112 billion over the next five years, the Treasurer appears to be in a more generous mood than many had been expecting.
The centrepiece of this largesse is the government's long-awaited $14.6 billion cost-of-living package which will provide $1.5 billion in energy cost relief for an estimated 5.5 million households, and cheaper medicines, as well as the single parent and JobSeeker changes.
The government is only able to hold out the prospect of a surplus while increasing expenditure in key areas, including defence and the NDIS because of factors outside its control it is not entitled to the credit for.
A significant factor is the record low level of unemployment achieved in the final years of the Morrison government.
This not only reduced the projected spend on income support for the unemployed, it has also boosted income tax receipts to $600 billion or 23.6 per cent of GDP. This is the highest it has been in 15 years.
The other stroke of good fortune for the Albanese government is the massive boost to commodity prices fuelled in roughly equal measure by the post-COVID rebound and the war in Ukraine.
This is expected to contribute an extra $16 billion to the budget bottom line from gas and oil alone. Coal, iron ore and lithium are also booming.
So, while all of this is good news for the government, which is in the fortunate position of being able to deliver long overdue cost-of-living relief at the same time as it reins in the deficit, there is a downside.
That is that the current circumstances are not only unique, they are cyclical in nature. Commodity investors are all too aware that what goes up usually comes down.
A fall in commodity demand - and prices - could be prompted by a wide range of factors. One of the most likely is an economic downturn.
With many US investors going on the defensive because of growing fears of a recession and Australia's GDP growth now expected to be much lower than at anytime since the worst of the pandemic, the unemployment rate won't stay where it is forever.
While in 2008 Wayne Swan was able to invest more than $15 billion into the three major "nation-building" funds Dr Chalmers does not have that luxury.
He has to walk the fine line between delivering on voters' expectations and paying down the record level of national debt as quickly as possible.
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