“But Mr Hockey’s first budget does not deliver all the structural reform the Coalition promised. Rather, it starts the task and defers many significant savings until after the next election. By doing this, the Abbott government has not only delayed the fiscal repair job but embraced a difficult policy agenda for 2016.”
“The heart of this budget involves two compromises: maintaining economic growth while beating a path to tough structural reforms and buying tolerance of harsh decisions by a deficit tax on high income earners …
“Mobilising political support for the budget strategy will be daunting. Not only are wide sections of the public being disadvantaged. The Abbott government is championing a reform agenda of reduced entitlements, deregulation, user-pays in relation to Medicare and means testing. This will trigger a massive political war over vested interest, equity and ideology.”
“Whether the improvement is sustained must therefore depend on political will. But also crucial is whether the economy outperforms the rather modest growth the budget projects — for if it does, that will make the road far easier, including by cushioning the effect welfare cuts have on low income earners.”
“This budget is not about bringing home the bacon, it’s about making bacon. Constrained, but not totally, by the many election promises made by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and a desire to not hurt the economy by moving too fast, the government has deferred the start of the really big structural savings in the budget until the final year of the four-year estimates, 2017-18 onwards.”
“This is a big budget: the list of individual savings measures goes for some 26 pages, and contained in those pages is a world of pain for almost every sector of the community but particularly the young. They will have to pay more for education, and see the subsidised interest rate on their higher education loans cut. The young unemployed will feel the brunt of the budget up front. The budget does deliver on Hockey’s promise to end the age of entitlement, although it seems some animals will remain more entitled than others under the Abbott government.”
“Mr Hockey’s first budget makes a purposeful but modest start to securing Australian prosperity. His first go at repairing the fiscal damage left by two Labor governments includes genuine reductions in middle-class welfare and launches ground-breaking reforms of the higher education sector to promote excellence and much-needed competition among our universities. It clearly fits into a broader second-term plan to shift more responsibilities to the states – such as for health and schools – along with tax reform.”
“It’s about regaining the self-reliance which used to be intrinsic to the Australian character and which in recent years has flipped dangerously in the direction of the European-style dependence on government hand-outs and protected jobs.”
“We owe too much, we spend too much, there are too many people out of work, with 700,000 Australians looking for a job … Australians will feel the pain but there is a proud national character that is now involved.”
“The government has already picked so many fights with this budget that it deserves not criticism but support.
“Why support? Because it would be a disaster if the first serious attempt in nearly two decades to rein in not just government spending but our culture of entitlement was killed by squeals of people grown too used to ‘free’ money.”
“Treasurer Joe Hockey was right when he said on Tuesday night that budget speeches are often about numbers but the budget itself must be about people. Yet it is hard to escape the conclusion that this government lacks compassion for the most vulnerable in the community.”
“He claims his reforms will improve the economy’s performance … But some measures are likely to make things worse rather than better. The $7 patient co-payment for GP visits and tests is certainly likely to discourage visits — more by the poor than the rest of us — but if it dissuades people from seeking help until their medical problems are acute it may end up costing the taxpayer more than it saves.”
“Abbott has to rebuild trust with an electorate that has already made its feelings plain on the fuel excise and the Medicare co-payments and, to a lesser extent, the deficit level for the wealthy… He aims to achieve this by wielding a big stick and a modest carrot.”
“[M]any voters, and the Herald, backed Tony Abbott and Mr Hockey as best placed to embark on much-needed economic and budgetary reforms to end years of Labor dysfunction.
“Eight months on and no one can accuse them of not having a red hot go at changing the nation.
“The public can, however, ask whether the government’s zeal for shifting the burden of economic change risks jeopardising the sort of national unity needed if Australia is to accept many of the necessary reforms in this budget.
“The Treasurer is looking like a man in too great a hurry.”