Back in March, Treasury secretary Ken Henry warned his staff that this year will see “a greater than usual risk of the development of policy proposals that are, frankly, bad”.
Viz: $40 to $45 million of pork per annum to a regional Tasmanian hospital in a marginal seat.
Ken Henry is also a member of the Reserve Bank board, the board that will have to take this sort of spending into account when it considers an interest rate rise next week.
Many market economists believe one is inevitable. The PM’s loose spending makes it so.
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His Treasurer, or so it appears, was trying to rein it in yesterday. “This is an announcement that’s been made in relation to a particular hospital and I think it’s very welcome,” he told PM. “The hospital would have closed otherwise and the Federal Government has been able to step in and to save that hospital.”
Despite the invitation of the Health Minister for other electorates to queue up for a plateful of pork, Peter Costello seemed keen to restrict the funding to Braddon.
Yet the Prime Minister himself has rolled out the barrel. “What I said yesterday and I repeat it now, very deliberately, is that we will see how this intervention works out, and if it does work out, it could well be that we do the same thing in other parts of the country,” he said.
There’s more than an echo here of the most damaging revelation in the Van Errington biography of the PM — of the clashes over spending policy between Howard and his Treasurer, especially at the last election.
Costello claimed to have given the PM a number of costed policy ideas for inclusion in his campaign launch speech: the child care rebate, school building repairs, the new technical colleges and others.
The PM didn’t pick and chose. He snarfed the lot in an infamous speech that promised $6 billion worth of spending in 20 minutes.
Costello is quoted as saying, “He ordered everything on the menu: entree, main, dessert, the vegetarian option.”
People, of course, have died from surfeits.
Meanwhile, at a hospital in a safe Liberal seat…
The Royal North Shore Hospital at St Leonards is virtually slap bang in the middle of Joe Hockey’s safe seat of North Sydney.
And there, in April, a dying cancer patient spent eight hours in emergency before being allocated.
There’s more in the Manly Daily.