It is just a budget. During the weeks leading up the Federal budget, and on Budget night itself, it pays to keep this in mind: All the words written and all the talk uttered are about things that are planned to happen, not things that actually have happened or things that are likely to happen. If there is one certainty about the estimates and forecasts Wayne Swan will make, it is that in important respects they will prove to be spectacularly wrong.

Now that is not a criticism of the Federal Treasurer. It just happens to be the nature of things. Sure, the financial boffins have their magical models of the economy that make sure all the numbers add up, but they are the very same models that at this time a year ago were predicting a continuing surplus between receipts and expenditure. When the newspapers headline rising unemployment and a whopping budget deficit, remember that 12 months ago inflation was the fear.

A truthful government would be telling us in this year’s budget that just as last year they were unable to predict the course of forthcoming events, so it is this year. Things might turn out to be far worse than we are expecting and they might even turn out to be better. All we can promise is to keep doing the best that we can, while we hope for the best.

Tasmania shows the gambling way again. When it comes to legalising gambling Tasmania has been the pace maker among State Governments. Back in 1895 Premier Sir Edward Braddon welcomed George Adams to Hobart with his Tattersalls lotteries after governments in New South Wales and Queensland had legislated against them. New South Wales might have shown the way with poker machines in clubs, but it was down south in 1973 that Australia got its first legal casino. More recently the Tasmanians allowed the first betting exchange with Betfair and now the state is moving to get back its leadership in the bookmaking industry from the Northern Territory by abolishing completely betting turnover tax as part of its plan to privatise the Tasmanian TAB.

State Treasurer Michael Aird currently has legislation before the state upper house that would leave the government with no regular tax payments from the privatised business and without the ability it enjoys now to extract special cash dividends from the government enterprise. The only income to the state from the new owner will be a flat annual fee, set at about $4 million.

No change fancied. The Crikey Interest Rate Indicator points to the Reserve Bank leaving rates on hold when it meets on the first Tuesday in May.

No surprise to Australians. With our history of voting “No” in referendums, Australians would not be surprised to learn that the citizens of Berlin on Sunday came out against a proposal to allow school students to take religion instead of compulsory ethics classes. The “Yes” vote supported by most church groups gained 48.5% of the votes. What was a surprise was that only 29.2 percent of Berlin’s 2.45 million eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot at all.

Peter Fray

Save up to 50% on a year of Crikey.

This extraordinary year is almost at an end. But we know that time waits for no one, and we won’t either. This is the time to get on board with Crikey.

For a limited time only, choose what you pay for a year of Crikey.

Save up to 50% or dig deeper so we can dig deeper.

See you in 2021.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

SAVE 50%