mathias cormann
Mathias Cormann (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

Mathias Cormann never got to deliver the surplus he worked so hard in government to achieve over seven years. In fact, he leaves behind Australia's biggest ever deficit, by a huge distance.

That's crucial to supporting the economy, he rightly argues, and it that has been enabled by the government's previous fiscal discipline. But it's hard not to feel some sympathy that the work Cormann put in from 2013 onwards was never paid off with a surplus, even a token one. A tiny deficit was the closest he got in 2019. Then COVID-19 came and changed the world.

As Crikey routinely noted throughout his time as steward of the nation's finances, the government's slow reduction in the deficit -- far slower than Joe Hockey had promised in 2013 -- was mainly driven by the Liberals' passion for higher taxes. Inheriting a tax:GDP ratio of 21.3% of GDP, the government jacked that up first above 22%, and then to 23% in 2019.