Michael Pascoe writes:

Fresh from his inane advice about petrol prices, the Treasurer was out and about yesterday warning the resources boom won’t last. That was while taking credit for selling and taxing the Federal Government out of debt.

The Deputy-for-Life is right in suggesting no boom goes on forever. What’s missing though is any sign that the government is interested in doing something to pick up the economic pieces when the mining frenzy cools in three or four years’ time.

What can be done? Only one thing – investing in people, also called investment in education. Government spending on education has fallen from 6-point-something of GDP to 4-point-something over the past two decades. The only lasting wealth we have is the talent of our 20 million people, but we’ve been failing to keep up with the game.

In the last election, the education debate came down to whether Kings School would keep or lose a couple of million dollars in federal money. The election before that, Beazley bamboozled himself trying to make education important. He could still do with lessons in plain speaking, but when he’s not wandering around lost, he’s indicated he’d like to try the education thing again next time.

A genuinely smart government, as opposed to a simply politically cunning one, would start cutting Labor’s only significant policy charge off now.

In an interview many years ago, I suggested to Costello that he could indeed go down as the Treasurer who rid the Federal Government of debt. He was ever-so-slightly-but-still-visibly moved by the idea at the time – I don’t think it had occurred to him until that moment when he suddenly realised it was indeed possible.

Well, let’s try making another suggestion – stop fiddling with the bread and circuses and invest in our collective future.

Peter Fray

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