Feb 12, 2018

Two moments as treasurer when Wayne Swan proved his mettle

Wayne Swan faced a more dramatic set of economic challenges than any treasurer since World War II. His handling of them meant hundreds of thousands of Australians kept their jobs.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

There was no one crucial time in Wayne Swan's time as treasurer. Given he faced the biggest financial crisis since the 1930s, a recession in most of the developed world, the ongoing tendency of his Treasury to wildly overstate revenue, a mining investment boom of unprecedented magnitude and an extended period with the Australian dollar above parity, picking a single moment to encapsulate his treasurership is impossible. But two moments will suffice to demonstrate why Swan will be leaving politics at the next election having made a huge difference to the lives of ordinary Australians.

One was the 2008 budget. It was before the period of the emergency interest rate cuts and the two stimulus packages of the financial crisis. It was when the dominant fiscal narrative was still the need to cut the Howard government's wasteful spending, to implement Kevin Rudd's commitment to "take a meataxe" to the public service, which had ballooned as Howard had tried to spend his way to a fifth term in office.

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10 thoughts on “Two moments as treasurer when Wayne Swan proved his mettle

  1. Saugoof

    I never liked him much personally but he definitely is one of the best ministers, in any portfolio, we’ve ever had. Sadly for most people he will instead be viewed as “Causing the Budget Emergency”. Australian media and politics really sucks sometimes.

  2. JMNO

    He was a very good Treasurer and maybe he will be able to do and say more out of politics than he can where he is.

  3. MJM

    “But for ordinary Australians, this was a bloke who made a fundamental difference in times that demanded people of quality step up.”

    Great line to go out on. There are few these days who deserve that sentence.

    1. leon knight

      And none at all in the current government front bench, not one…nor any waiting in the wings.

  4. William Morgan

    Hear hear Bernard .I couldn’t agree with you more .Swan,Australia’s second “world’s best treasurer”,used a classic Keynesian response to stave off what could have been a debilitating recession that would have cost many thousands of jobs.As they say you never feel the bullet that misses .He was given scant recognition by the media esp Newscorp for keeping Australia in the top few performing countries from09 to 12.I met him once and thanked him personally .

  5. RoscoHill

    You only have to go to Vancouver Canada, Seattle US to see the profound economic and social dislocation which still exist in North America. So Many people living in mobile homes on Railway Land in Canada and tents and tarps in nearly ever empty Lot in Seattle.
    Anchorage Alaska has a huge homeless population in the winter as people cant afford fuel and food to survive. We gotta thank Swan the most, he fought to keep us out of the gloom and dis pare other countries are still in.

  6. Sleuth

    Even though he copped a lot of criticism from the coalition and from most of the main stream media, he was like the little bantam rooster, giving it back to his detractors in spades. My sister was a bank teller in the seventies and remembers fondly, Wayne Swan as the union rep. ” He was always prepared to help in any way he could”. He’s still the same.

  7. AR

    The two most undeservedly traduced & vilified pollies in the last 10yrs were Gillard & Swan.
    Imagine what the Rodent would have done during the GFC.
    We don’t need to imagine, SerfChoices was the blue print for the amerikanisation of society, no conditions, tenure or social welfare.

  8. anthony

    Thanks for the article Bernard. I never met Wayne Swan but if he happens to see this , thanks for your service to this country.

  9. Mary

    Well said Bernard. Swan was a great treasurer. If only the coalition had a Wayne Swan in their ministry.

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