Funny thing about raiding the Future Fund; when Kevin Rudd wants to do it for broadband, it’s theft; when Peter Costello does it for a university endowment fund, it’s building the chances of young Australians.
But it turns out Cossie isn’t so much stealing from the front end of the Future Fund, but bringing forward the aspirations the fund’s chief had for its eventual use once the superannuation of public servants was paid for.
It’s probably no coincidence that David Murray has been put in charge of the Higher Education Endowment Fund as well as the Future Fund. After all, it was his idea.
The former Commonwealth Bank CEO was confident from the outset of the Future Fund that it could do the specified job and have billions left over. It represented an opportunity to build something grand and lasting for the improvement of Australia, a real future fund, or it could just be grabbed for whatever transient purposes the government of the day might have. And Murray’s particular passion and hope was that it could be used like the great American university endowment funds.
Somewhere between those early days and the Budget two weeks ago, Costello bought Murray’s vision and fast-forwarded it to the start of the Future Fund instead of its end.
Why the delay when there’s a desperate need — 11 years of federal neglect — and so much spare money? Heavens, it turns out the Future Fund can get by without the occasional $5 billion or so that can go to universities instead. Or, perhaps, a smaller amount for a broadband gesture.
But the broadband idea came from the Opposition, so it’s stealing.