“But I think there is a good understanding in Australia that the current settings we have in place are unsustainable. Australians know that.”

That’s what Joe Hockey has told a mob of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington. It probably went down a treat with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde to hear that Australians all understand government spending must be cut in the name of fiscal sustainability, and we’re on standby to “make a contribution”.

Good luck with that, Joe.

We’ve heard the strains of tough-talking budget rhetoric for some months now, but we’re yet to see any genuine plans to achieve it. The government is either bereft of ideas to significantly cut spending or afraid of letting voters in on its plans. There were few big spending cuts by the Coalition outlined before the election. What we got instead were promises to cut taxes and spend more (paid parental leave). So, Joe, where are these cuts going to come from?

The government must stop walking both sides of the street. If it’s really going to “wind back some spending that our population have come to take for granted”, as Hockey said, then get on with it. We’re waiting for the Commission of Audit to be made public, and we’re waiting for Hockey’s first budget next month. Now’s the time.

And if the government lacks the ticker to cut spending, stop pretending otherwise.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey