This is more Lindsay Tanner’s budget than Wayne Swan’s or Kevin Rudd’s.
There are no new spending measures, only new savings, and remarkably the Finance Minister has found $2 billion more in savings than Swan and Rudd are spending.
The first Swan/Tanner budget actually reconciles the irreconcilable: the need for fiscal restraint to fight inflation while fulfilling the Government’s election promises and not crunching the economy so hard that it risks exacerbating the coming slowdown.
And it had been done simply by carving into middle-class welfare and cutting out the fat left by John Howard’s profligacy.
When the former Treasurer Peter Costello said at a remarkable doorstop press conference this morning that Wayne Swan is the luckiest new Treasurer in history, he was absolutely right – but not for the reason he meant. It’s because there was so much fat left in Government expenditures that could be painlessly cut away.
The Government, meanwhile, is playing down the centrepiece of its first budget. It is not mentioned at all in Wayne Swan’s budget speech; he just sums up all the nice things that have previously been announced.