The funniest aspect of the Coalition’s renewed claim that Treasury’s independence has been compromised — a claim that has been trundled out ever since Labor came to power by both opposition and their media apologists — is if you take the claim seriously, Labor must be pretty rubbish at politicising the public service.
After all, for the years leading up to the financial crisis, Treasury regularly underestimated tax revenue, making John Howard and Peter Costello look like stellar fiscal managers and setting the scene for them to turn the federal government into a giant cash machine blasting money at voters. As soon as Labor got into office, however, that came to an end. There was no more underestimating revenue. Indeed, Treasury promptly began overestimating it, and not by a few billion here or there, but by double-figure billions, leaving Treasurer Wayne Swan to explain why deficits were persisting when he’d promised surpluses, and up until December, repeatedly slashing spending to try to post a surplus.