Will we be seeing any more big spending policies? Probably not.
There’s a practical reason for that. Under the Charter of Budget Honesty, the political parties need to lodge their spending promises with the Treasury for costing. The deadline for submission is 5:30pm today. And there are political reasons, too. Economic management has been the Coalition’s strongest selling point. Labor is trying to take it.
When interest rates went up last week, the Coalition still claimed they would be lower under them than the ALP.
John Howard unveiled almost $10 billion worth of campaign spending on Monday – and the Reserve Bank reiterated the warning it used to justify the rate rise, that inflation could top its two to three per cent target until March 2008. Suddenly, it all looked irresponsible. Irresponsible – and risky.
Yesterday, Kevin Rudd made much of the contrast between his $2.3 billion worth of new promises and the Coalition’s “irresponsible spending spree”. It was the ultimate “safe hands” gesture we’ve seen from the Labor leader. But he hasn’t just tried to pinch the mantle of better economic management from the Coalition. He’s tried to outline a moral context to put it in.
Rudd is trying to make the Coalition’s promises look like bribes. Crass bribes, forced by desperation. His promises, in contrast, are all part of a – you guessed it – “positive vision for the nation’s future”.
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We musn’t let the Nationals’ contribution to this debate go without mention. The agrarian socialists have an ad out – warning against Labor’s spending cuts. That’s their idea of economic responsibility and their contribution to the debate.