Two of Australia’s longest-serving state Treasurers, Victoria’s John
Brumby and South Australia’s Kevin Foley, both gave
very detailed presentations on the relative strengths of their
economies yesterday.

Foley was just presenting to sceptical journalists ahead of the March
18 state election, but News Ltd’s Terry McCrann was clearly impressed
with Brumby’s performance at CEDA.

Brumby also appeared well
on top of his brief at the Australia Future Directions
Forum last week, when he made the point that’s he’s now the longest
serving state Treasurer, although his six years is nothing compared
with Peter
Costello’s 10 years as Treasurer, preceded by two years as
shadow Treasurer.

The second longest-serving State Treasurer is WA’s Eric Ripper, who
survived the ascension of Alan Carpenter and has been there since 2001.
It will be interesting to see if Kevin Foley remains South Australian
Treasurer after the state election, because he’s already notched up four years of service.

Brumby inherited the position from Premier Steve Bracks, who decided in
2000 that it was too big a workload to lead the state and run the
Treasury. Morris Iemma and Peter Beattie have clearly reached the same
conclusion which means that both now have brand new Treasurers in
Michael Costa and Anna Bligh.

The Treasurer with the toughest job is undoubtedly Michael Costa,
the
former secretary of the NSW Labor Council, who must deal with the
legacy of Michael Egan and Bob Carr – a projected budget surplus of up
to $800 million.

Costa won’t have enjoyed Reserve Bank governor Ian
Macfarlane telling Senators this morning that NSW is definitely lagging
the
national economy, but Brumby and Steve Bracks are facing an
election this year and the Guv also said Victoria is lagging “to
some extent”.

As Paul Keating, John Cain and Bob Carr demonstrated, Labor governments
tend to lose financial discipline as the years go by. Given the way a
third term sent NSW finances off the rail, maybe John Brumby isn’t
joking when he talks about aspiring to replace Eddie McGuire as
president of Collingwood next year.

It’s something that Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon should also
contemplate, given that he is the last remaining Premier to retain both
portfolios as he goes after a third term.

Peter Fray

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