Treasurer Joe Hockey’s fiddling with the Intergenerational Report numbers will make a substantial difference in what was once a non-political document meant to enable Australians to understand Australia’s long-term economic challenges. It is now merely an effort to restore Hockey’s and Tony Abbott’s policy credentials.
The Intergenerational Report is a Coalition creation from former treasurer Peter Costello: under the Charter of Budget Honesty legislation in 1998, one was to be prepared every five years “to assess the long-term sustainability of current government policies over the 40 years following the release of the report, including by taking account of the financial implications of demographic change.” As the legislation suggests, it was to be a forward-looking document, focused on the politics of the day. None of the 2002, nor the 2007, nor the 2010 IGRs mention the then-opposition parties. The closest any of them get to politics is in the first report in 2002 — released at the same time as the budget — which noted in passing that a particular bill was blocked in the Senate.