We’re with Lindsay Tanner. “Taxation and welfare spending are at record levels, with even millionaires receiving welfare cheques,” he says. “So much for the champions of small government and free markets.”

Indeed. And now we know. The Costello Boys are no better. Not only can’t they do the numbers. They have no new policy ideas either.

Cossie’s cup-bearer Chris Pyne flogs the evil socialists of the ALP with limp lettuce in The Australian today.

“If social justice is measured in outcomes for people then in the delivery of work and in the payment of income support over the last 10 years, far from being a Scrooge-like Government that has limited and restricted payments, we have provided income support and jobs far in excess of anything that Labor were capable of before 1996,” Pyne says.

He has a fair enough point with the job creation – but strays into very grey areas on the rest. Peter Saunders from the CIS scolds him in the article. Saunders says it make no sense for welfare spending to be increasing while the economy was growing. “It should be declining, not growing.”

Two years ago, Crikey drew attention to the comments by former Treasury Secretary John Stone in The National Observer:

The outstanding hallmark of this Budget is its sheer laziness. The Expenditure Review Committee, chaired by the Treasurer, seems to have made no significant effort to peg back (or better still, abolish) the hundreds of departmental programs via which it spends, and in many cases wastes, our money…

The Budget betrays no evidence whatsoever that the Treasurer has even contemplated a program of genuine tax reform. Instead, after a lazy Expenditure Review Committee process, a lazy Treasurer, confronted with a huge and still upwardly spiralling budgetary surplus outlook, has reacted, first, by cobbling together some hastily assembled tax cuts having little or no genuine reform component; and second, by conjuring up a newly devised Future Fund in which the remaining embarrassing surpluses might be stuffed, ostensibly to deal with a suddenly recognized problem which has existed long before this Government took office and which, for the past nine years, it has studiously managed to ignored.

As we said just before Christmas, John Howard’s government is all about churn.

He takes money from taxpayers and gives it to his bureaucrats. They push it this way and that, diminishing it all the while. Some goes to the worse off, but it mainly ends up in the pockets of middle class and wealthier Australians. Much of it should never be taken in the first place.

The Australian has observed how the Prime Minister made spending commitments at the rate of $94 million a minute in his 2004 campaign launch speech. John Howard is scared of tax reform. Instead, he bribes taxpayers with their own money. And it seems that that would be a Costello government’s (don’t laugh) modus operandi, too.

The only departure from this approach has occurred during the PM’s Hundred Flowers campaign of 2005, when Malcolm Turnbull and Sophie Mirabella actually offered a few ideas.

But the Cossie boys clearly don’t have any. Neither does their idol. There’s no point in ever making him PM – or promoting his acolytes.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey