Will the first home buyer’s mini-boom continue? Among the many intriguing questions tonight’s budget will answer is whether the growth in housing construction will continue. The answer will come in what the government has decided to do about the first home buyers grant, where the increases made late last year have stimulated almost a mini-boom. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures on housing finance out this morning show that construction of new dwellings and the purchase of new homes has risen sharply while investment housing continues to fall.

An alternative to global warming. It started off as global warming, but advisers to President George W. Bush decided that climate change sounded less threatening and less demanding of immediate action by government to do something about it. Democrats have stuck with the global warming description but now the spinners in the Barack Obama White House are searching for a new form of words as the  LA Times reveals:

Don’t worry about the features, check the news. There’s been some speculation in recent weeks over whether or not News Limited tabloids are about to share features between states. What there does not have to be speculation about is the way that papers are already sharing major stories. Sue Dunlevy this morning has written the page one lead previewing the budget for both the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the Melbourne Herald Sun.

Steve Lewis has done the same things on many occasions recently. In one sense there’s nothing wrong with the practice when the stories are significant, accurate and well written. What the bureau approach to news does do, however, is limit the choice that different political writers bring to the decision as to what constitutes significance.

Advice worth taking. Every now and again as a political journalist you come across a column by a colleague that you wish you had had the wit to write. It happened to me this morning and the author whose words I covet is not one I always find myself in agreement with. Gerard Henderson, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, makes the case for the Opposition abstaining on legislation it disagrees with rather than voting against it. He argues:

Voting against legislation makes the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, look negative. It also brings the Greens and the independent senators into the mainstream of the political debate since any or all of them only have a balance-of-power position if the Coalition opposes Labor’s legislation. Giving additional prominence to the Greens and independents is not in the long-term interests of the Coalition or Labor.

To show that they disagree with Labor, all Turnbull and his colleagues have to do is to abstain. This serves as a reminder to electors that they voted for the likes of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard to govern the nation. There is no obvious reason why an opposition should attempt to protect voters from the consequences of their electoral decision.

It is advice the Opposition Leader would do well to keep in mind as he ponders his reaction to tonight’s budget.

Peter Fray

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