Treasurer Wayne Swan did not have good Question Times last week. He looked nervous.

The opposition no doubt will target the Prime Minister today over his links to Brian Burke, but they will continue to harry Swan all week. The man in the second most important job in government appears to have a weak grip on his portfolio, or at least is too nervy to make a good show of explaining his government’s plans and policy positions.

That’s a vital part of being the treasurer. Government gives them a bully pulpit. They are supposed to use it, especially in times like these, when economic management is a key concern.

Take a dekko at Swan’s homepage. It only has three speeches down for this year.

One of these was delivered to the Labor faithful at the Mick Young Scholarship Trust Dinner. One of these is from parliament last week. The other was given at the launch of the Sky News Business Channel. None of these are challenging or confronting forums. None of these were speeches that addressed the markets and the finance community.

Treasurers need to speak. They need to make major statements regularly.

There is a herd mentality in the finance community. Treasurers have to act as shepherds and drive opinions and interpretations. If treasurers don’t provide information, markets will take it from somewhere else. And that could be as damaging to the government as nervy performances in Question Time.

Peter Fray

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