Labor resorted to a rather unusual tactic in question time yesterday — asking Treasurer Scott Morrison detail about his portfolio, including how much revenue had fallen between the Coalition’s 2014 and 2015 budgets.

Morrison’s response was to criticise Labor for “playing games” — and he got himself into quite a tangle when Chris Bowen asked him if he agreed with Ken Henry that more than half of the budget deterioration was because of falling revenue.

“[Labor] think[s] the way to address the country’s budget challenges is to pull more money out of the pockets of Australian taxpayers, that you need to tax businesses more, that you need to tax the savings of people more,” Morrison railed, perhaps forgetting that under the budget he inherited from Joe Hockey, this year’s tax take will be nearly a full 1% of GDP higher than it was during Labor’s last year in power.

He then went on:

“Those opposite had the best commodity prices of all time. They had the best of all time, but they drove our budget into dire deficit and they put this country into a debt legacy that will take a generation to pay off. The reason they did that is that they always believe that you can spend taxpayers’ money like there is no tomorrow.”

Let’s ignore the financial crisis, as Morrison did, and check out that claim: the iron ore price indeed peaked in February 2011. What was happening fiscally that year? Wayne Swan actually cut spending in real terms by 0.4% — which helped prevent an inflation break out caused by the mining boom — the first cut in real terms since Keating’s “bring home the bacon” budget in 1988. Payments fell by 1.4% of GDP to 24.6%, the biggest fall since Keating’s 1987 budget.

In comparison, how much is the Coalition spending this year? The budget forecasts 25.9% of GDP in payments, or 1.3% higher than 2011, and it will remain above 25% for years to come.

Who’s spending taxpayers’ money like there’s no tomorrow, Scott?

Peter Fray

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