Peter Costello’s 2005 budget was undoubtedly the best received since Paul Keating’s 1988 “bringing home the bacon” performance, so the big question this year is whether Peter Costello can win even higher praise. Whilst Liberal spinners such as Grahame Morris lead the charge with declarations that the 2005 budget was “the granddaddy of them all”, even News Ltd’s Terry McCrann proclaimed it was “easily the best budget we’ve had in 30 or so years”.

The editorial headlines one year ago tell the story, particularly from the Murdoch press which seemed to have a gushing house view:

The Australian:A budget that brings home the bacon
“Apart from his first, which required big spending cuts to drag back a $10.3 billion deficit, this is Peter Costello’s best budget.”

The Courier Mail:Treasurer writes his own date with destiny
“This is Mr Costello’s date with destiny, and last night’s Budget proposes measures that will frame his own report card – whether or not he is there to deliver it. It is a bold and comprehensive package.”

The Daily Telegraph:Working together for a bold future
“This Budget is in essence a representation in economic terms of the Howard/Costello manifesto for good government.”

The Herald Sun:Saving the best for last
“Peter Costello has saved his best for his 10th, and possibly last, Budget. The initiatives in tax cutting, imaginative spending, focus on the future and reform to superannuation are well aimed. He has achieved this and is still left with a massive $8.9 billion surplus… Ironically, his achievements with successive Budgets raises the question of why Australians would want him to leave the job and move to the Lodge.”

Fairfax was a little more sanguine, although new Age editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan was clearly impressed:

The Sydney Morning Herald:High risk tax cuts sweeten lost opportunity
“Just when the Reserve was starting to ease its interest rate trigger finger, the Treasurer has presented the inflation watchdog with billions-of-dollar reasons to get back in the game.”

The Age:Tax cuts and a super time for all
“Peter Costello’s 10th – and presumably last – federal budget will be recalled as generous to a fault.”

The Financial Review:Positive moves but no reform
“Framing a good news budget while standing in a blizzard of revenue dollars isn’t all that hard. Taking tough decisions to make the economy more productive, resilient and able to deal with the future challenges of an ageing population amid fierce global competition for talent and capital is much harder… when one looks for evidence that the Howard Government is taking the opportunity to institute fundamental reform of the economy, it is scarce.”

It will be interesting to compare the editorials tomorrow in our special budget edition so you can line them up with these offerings from last year.

Peter Fray

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