Pity Ian Macfarlane as he tucks into his last RBA board lunch today. After a decade of refusing interviews with Australian journalists, he’s bowing out with a whinge that nobody understands him.

Macfarlane is going with a flurry of last-minute pontifications, suddenly giving some of the interviews he had refused. None is sillier than today’s splash in the AFR – it turns out that Macfarlane had no problem with Peter Costello’s tax cuts in the May budget and he thinks he’s been badly done by.

“I have been shamefully misquoted on fiscal policy all year,” Macfarlane whines. “I had no problem with what the Treasurer did in the May budget. The great irony – and I feel sorry for him in this respect – is that the same people who are urging him to make huge tax cuts have now turned around and said that what he did is pushing up interest rates.”

There was an answer of course, Macca – you could have tried being accessible to the media then instead of building up your public appearances into Moses-coming-down-from-the-mountain events. If you thought your remarks to a parliamentary committee in February were being misconstrued, you didn’t have to wait half a year to say so.

All these months later, Macfarlane explains that he was trying to hose down the calls for “huge” tax cuts in the May budget.

“Basically before the February inquiry, and I sat down with (Treasury Secretary) Ken (Henry) beforehand, I said, you know, this is crazy,” the AFR reports – apparently wanting to be careful about not misquoting and never mind syntax.

“All these people who desire huge tax cuts. I mean you’ve got people in the Liberal Party, people in the Labor Party, you’ve got the press, led by The Australian, they want these huge tax cuts.”

Darrell Eastlake, take a bow. As to the present, Macfarlane seems to continue to endorse Cossie’s policy of keeping the tax cuts coming – but maybe I’m just misunderstanding the following:

I have heard people say, “Oh we should let the fiscal stabilisers work”. I think they are working. I think if you have an economy that is growing at 3% as we have, there’s no reason why you would need bigger and bigger surpluses, in other words why you would need to restrain it with some sort of fiscal restraint.

Or maybe he’ll give another interview some time next year to explain it.

Peter Fray

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