If Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson was present yesterday in the budget lock-up, he was kept well hidden. Former treasurer Peter Costello and his department were famously at each other's necks, but the relationship between the current Treasurer and his chief bean counter has been surprisingly solid throughout Labor's time in office.

As Stephen Mayne never got tired of documenting, the public service has a variable record in predicting budget surpluses or deficits, as can be seen in this table. The figures are revised every year, but this is based on the historical underlying cash balance in this year's budget papers.