Dec 21, 2012

Richard Farmer’s chunky bits: Gillard’s embarrassing backdown

So it is that Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard will end the year with "we will bring the budget back into surplus in 2012-13" as a vote losing deadweight hanging around their necks. And other political news.

Richard Farmer

Crikey political commentator

A lesson forgotten. As someone all too closely involved with that famous "no child will live in poverty" slogan I am well aware of the dangers of political over-promising. What continues to surprise is me is that following generations of Labor apparatchiks did not learn the lesson from that embarrassment. So it is that Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard will end the year with "we will bring the budget back into surplus in 2012-13" as a vote losing deadweight hanging around their necks. And the retreat that the Treasurer announced yesterday will be far more damaging than Bob Hawke's over-promising. For this Prime Minister does not have the luxury of a Hawkeian approval rating and suffers as well from previous extravagant promises broken. Scrapping two years of assurances that government spending will be balanced at least by government revenue will just remind voters of the cavalier fashion with which Gillard abandoned her solemn "there will be no carbon tax imposed by a government I lead". A good time for a holiday. The Prime Minister got off quite lightly really from her government's budget back-down. Of the tabloids only Melbourne's Herald Sun really went to town.

Being on holiday helped with the loyal deputy Wayne Swan stepping forward to take most of the flack with a bit of help from that master of the dead bat Penny Wong. With the public's mind on other things, this was a perfect time to make a mockery of repeated promises.

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4 thoughts on “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits: Gillard’s embarrassing backdown

  1. Bill Hilliger

    One Headline I would like to see on the front pages of the Herald or Australian is that Rupert M still has some explaining to do of his media dealings in the UK.

  2. Cyndi

    Jeeze, Richard, reading your chunky bits is akin to wading into the parallel universe of comments on News Ltd sites.

    You really hate Gillard, I get that, but do yourself a favour – when you’re quoting Gillard’s ‘lie’ about the carbon tax, how about publishing the full quote.

    And rather than twisting your panties in a bunch over the back down on the surplus, try reading some experts on the subject, most of whom agree it’s a good idea. IMO, Labor promised a surplus to shut down the opposition’s incessant bleating that they couldn’t do it. Turns out they were right, but I’d sooner have a deficit than a Howard-era surplus at the cost of health and education.

  3. Peter Fuller

    Unless a Government makes no projections at all – hardly feasible given the nature of Budget documents – it’s impossible that they won’t be offering themselves as hostages to fortune, when circumstances inevitably change. So we’re stuck until the media offer a more nuanced analysis of these situations.
    Where the present Government has left itself open to criticism (on consistency, not policy grounds) is that it choose or felt obliged to make the “surplus” a more earnest commitment than the situation justified. I understand why Government spokespeople felt such pressure, largely due to the trivial way in which the matter is presented and generally understood.
    That being the case, it’s best to get the issue dealt with at this time, and try to frame the economic debate in more sensible fashion in the New Year. It seems that they have made a good start on this as informed opinion seems to indicate that the surplus is now unattainable and undesirable.
    Richard is correct that there may be a political price to pay, but it is likely to be less than pursuing the surplus target, with the collateral damage that was likely to cause.

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