Wayne Swan certainly delivered the “no frills” budget he promised. In the cold harsh light of morning, how does the Federal Budget fare? Is it an economically conservative budget for the sake of the nation or is it a budget aimed at building the government’s economic credentials and starting its election campaign?

You can read Wayne Swan’s Budget speech to parliament here and check out the whole budget here.

In last night’s special Crikey Budget edition, Bernard Keane wrote:

…this is a budget designed to convince Australians Labor can be trusted to manage the recovery as well as it managed the GFC.

Will it succeed? Or is this just further spin? As the nation’s journalists suffer post-Budget hangovers, let’s take a look at what they’re saying:

The Australian

Paul Kelly: Accounts deliver an election narrative

This budget is the stunning story of Australian Exceptionalism in action.

Michael Stutchbury: Lucky country returns to bounty

This is a no-frills budget because the Treasurer’s main task has been to make sure the flood of money is directed to the budget bottom line rather than splashed up against the wall.

Jennifer Hewett: Politics aplenty in election year

Wayne Swan says this is a budget “pretty heavy on policy and pretty light on politics”. Don’t be fooled.

Peter van Onselen: Shaky fiscal foundations should hold

The risk for Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan is that those same projections won’t hold for much longer than that, assuming Labor wins a second term in office, leaving it having to account for a longer than projected time in the red as debt mounts and public confidence in the government’s economic management falls away.

George Megalogenis: Pledges slow down return to surplus

Imagine how different last night’s budget might have been if Wayne Swan could have announced the reintroduction of the tax cuts, and an earlier return to surplus, as the dividend from dodging the GFC?

Dennis Shanahan: The only number that counts

The government is afraid of the Coalition’s campaign on – and the public concerns about – the twins of “debt and deficit” and the impact of the rising cost of living, with inflation up and interest rates climbing. It has reacted accordingly.

Tom Dusevic: Hard times forge a steely Treasurer

In preparing his third budget – a rolling, shifting, arduous and messy process that began a few days after his 2009 effort – the Treasurer finally asserted himself as the Rudd government’s economic tough talker and spending taskmaster.

The Age

Michael Gordon: A punctuation mark in the story of a party seeking stability

Well, there were no frills. Wayne Swan’s third budget delivers on the (lack of) hype and offers little in pre-election bribes.

Michelle Grattan: The bullet dodged, now going for glory

But in making this a measures-lite budget – the tactic Rudd successfully used in his 2007 election launch – the government hopes a fiscal necessity will become an electoral strength.

Tim Colebatch: ‘We are the envy of the world

Good resolutions make for boring budgets. The big story in this budget is not what it does, but what it doesn’t.

Kenneth Davidson: With $46bn taken out, growth rests on private spending

The real tragedy of this budget is that it has avoided beginning the serious task of restructuring the economy to take into account climate change.

Tony Wright: That’s Swan in the spotlight, getting his religion

This is the ”morning-after” budget, the one where you wake up with your mouth dry, your pockets all but empty and the slow dawning of understanding that you are still alive.

As the aspirin kicks in, you make resolutions. You’ll do better, you’ll be modest, you’ll work your way out of debt. Yes, the future. You’ll be responsible, you’ll be strong.

Sydney Morning Herald

Peter Hartcher: Back in the black with a touch of restraint

The Rudd government has turned the time-honoured artform of the election-year budget on its head. Instead of buying votes with big spending, it is trying to win our trust by exercising restraint.

Ross Gittins: The budget conjurer waves his magic cheque book again

Wow. Kevin Rudd, the great moral budgeter of our time. Or so he wants us to think.

Phillip Coorey: Focus falls firmly back on the economy

This was Wayne Swan’s best budget, if only because it was easy to get a handle on.

Katharine Murphy: Swan unveils budget with a capital ‘E’

Treasurer, if it’s not about the election why are you standing in front of a big blue and yellow election slogan as large as a delivery van?

Saul Eslake: Swan sets prudent course on rapidly rising tide

This is a remarkably restrained effort.

Adele Ferguson: Nation-building sacrificed to get back to surplus

Behind all the rhetoric there is little new spending on infrastructure to tackle a decade of neglect.

Lenore Taylor: Ignore the Treasurer’s denials, this absolutely is an election budget

So this is what a pre-election budget looks like when a government can’t just dip into the booty of the commodity boom and shower it upon working families and the good burgers living in marginal electorates.

Malcolm Maiden: Windfalls made the difference in Wayne’s World

Despite its policy backflips, its management of the economy continues to be one of its big selling points, as today’s quietly powerful budget papers underline.

Jessica Irvine: Swan’s ugly duckling doesn’t look so bad after all

Paul Keating might have called it a beautiful set of numbers.

WA Today

Chalpat Sonti: How the West lost out – even with a Koolyanobbing rail track

There have already been a lot of one-word descriptions of Wayne Swan’s third budget – boring, prudent, cautious, responsible, irresponsible, to name a few.

In the west, three words might be better – is that it?

The Courier-Mail

Dennis Atkins: Wayne Swan plays the same song in Budget 2010

The economic imperative was obvious after letting loose the biggest fiscal stimulus packages in our history Swan and his fellow razor-gangster Lindsay Tanner needed to get the Budget back into the black and rein in their own profligacy.

The Daily Telegraph

Malcolm Farr: Budget smugglers – a cunning political blueprint for Labor’s re-election

Mild-mannered Wayne Swan is putting a gun to the head of his own policy children to demand the security of their big brother, the Resources Super Profit Tax.

Piers Akerman: The kitchen cabinet cooks up a mess

Treasurer Wayne Swan has produced a fantastic Budget. Fantastic – as in created in the mind, illusory and unrealistic.

Herald Sun

Andrew Bolt: Tax grabs to hide waste

This is a Budget worth boasting about – if it didn’t rely so crucially on desperate tax grabs, heroic assumptions and broken promises.

Adelaide Advertiser

Mark Kenny: A no-frills Budget to make or break Rudd

The Treasurer’s third Budget portrays Australia as a powerhouse, out-pacing all other advanced economies.


Barrie Cassidy: Nothing wrong with a boring budget

This was one of the tightest spending budgets in a generation – certainly the tightest pre-election budget. Presumably not a lot was wasted on speech writers.

Stephen Long: Swan’s no frills budget

It’s not quite the Kmart budget, “cutting the cost of living,” but it could ease the squeeze a little.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey