The budget contains welcome news for people worried about being struck by flying space debris, but olive lovers have taken a hit.

The four official budget papers (and dozens of supplementary documents and press releases) contain hidden gems which should not pass Crikey readers by. Here are some of the budget’s quirkiest moments.

Treasurer Wayne Swan may be talking down these tough economic times, but he’s found $500,000 to plan — plan, not carry out — the relocation of a C-band space surveillance radar to WA (it’s a joint project with the US). The radar will “track space assets and debris” and provide “warnings of possible collisions between space objects, thereby reducing the danger posed by space debris”.

Elsewhere, chestnut farmers may have been celebrating prematurely at the news that the “chestnut levies and export charge” has been slashed by $5 a tonne — but be careful. There’s also a new levy of $5 a tonne on chestnuts.

Not so lucky are olive farmers, who’ve copped a brutal double levy — a new levy of $3 a tonne, and an additional separate levy of 10 cents a tonne (for reasons unexplained, the levies can’t be combined). And this government pretends to like deregulation.

Remember the “potted plant levy”, that great big new tax on your maidenhair fern? It’s also gone up — and down again — in the budget, ending up at the same level.

A plan to overhaul airline regulations so domestic travellers must put liquids, aerosols and gels in sealed bags has been quietly ditched. Plans from 2007 to introduce the new rules have been dumped “following consultation with industry”; high fliers will be allowed to continue packing the Oil of Olay in their checked baggage.

The government has decided to fund new public liability insurance for MPs for claims made against them for injury and damage “caused to members of the public by senators and members”. Does Wayne Swan know something we don’t?

Swan has certainly been watching some CSI lately. The budget carves out $9.1 million over four years for an Australian Ballistics Identification Network, to work out where bullets used in crimes come from.

Sticking with matters criminal, the tanks might be rolled out in Queensland again. No, it’s not a return to the Bjelke-Petersen era; there’s $7.1 million for the Australian Defence Force to provide security at next year’s G20 leaders’ summit in Brisbane.

Smokers beware — there’s an undisclosed sum set aside to step up tobacco patrols, to police the government’s plain packaging laws for cigarettes. And lest we overlook Adelaide, which is so easily done, there’s $5 million to noise-proof a Greek orthodox church, to be part-funded by an Adelaide noise levy. But given the city seems far from rowdy, will it raise much money?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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