mandate Josh Frydenberg
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

Post-Costello Australia has been absolutely surplus mad. Frothing. 

Peter Costello, Australia’s treasurer from 1996 to 2007, ran surpluses for a decade and paid off the Commonwealth government’s debt. An impressive achievement to be sure. But thereafter the budget balance became a totem, fetishised to an absurd degree. 

It wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time budgets were about economic policy as much as balance.