LIKE a delusional sycophant refusing to acknowledge a reality he has already admitted, self-important bubble and Treasurer Wayne Swan has wasted no time returning to form, and is now talking up the Gillard government’s “credentials” to deliver a budget surplus — in 2017. Get the sick bucket.
After three years of “rolled gold” guarantees and promises of delivering a surplus in next week’s budget — a “guarantee” now blown to bits to the tune of at least $20 billion, probably more — it seems Swan is embarking in a repeat of the process.
In an interview reported by Fairfax for tomorrow’s papers, Swan made the faintly ludicrous claim that next week’s budget would ”a clear pathway back to surplus commensurate with supporting jobs and growth.”
It defies belief that even Swan — so arrogantly sure of himself, despite his clear limitations as Treasurer — could possibly believe that his utterances about budget surpluses could ever be taken seriously by the electorate he has spent several years trying to hoodwink.
Yet it seems some in the Labor Party really do credit the voting public with absolutely no intelligence whatsoever, and in what is obviously the opening shot in another attempt to waste years on another snake oil sales campaign, Swan has proven exactly that.
Readers should remember that of Labor’s many baseless promises since 2010, those that have detonated most violently in its face are those it deployed to stave off almost certain electoral defeat and to steal three additional years in office: the carbon tax promise, and the budget surplus promise.
The point is relevant because in the Fairfax interview with Swan, he was asked — directly — whether making spending cuts so close to an election might hurt the ALP politically.
”It’s not about them or us, it’s about the country,” Swan is quoted as responding.
The thing that makes me roll my eyes about this new timetable to deliver a budget surplus is that it is predicated on a) winning this year’s election, and b) the one due in 2016 as well, before the ALP would even have to be held to account for another “rolled gold” promise.
And far from it not being “about them or us,” as Swan so delicately puts it, it has everything to do with them or us — at least wherever Wayne Swan, Julia Gillard, and the Labor Party generally is concerned.
The present incarnation of the Australian Labor Party operates with an eye on politics to the exclusion of virtually all else — not electoral politics, mind, but the sort of politics designed specifically with Tony Abbott in mind and with an explicit ongoing obsession with trying to wrong-foot him taking precedence over all other issues of governance.
It’s one of the reasons the ALP finds itself in such a mess: it has spent so long trying to tear down a Liberal leader who is far more intelligent and resilient than its henchmen give Abbott credit for that this fatal misjudgement has come at the cost of effective governance in the orthodox sense.
Swan at least has the grace to concede that savage budget cuts, to be formally announced next week, will not be popular.
And the budget coincides with a rapid junking of other 2010 election commitments and sweeteners; the imposition of a levy to fund the NDIS was explicitly ruled out, and will now be added to the Medicare levy; and just this week, the ALP has abandoned further tax cuts announced as part of the compensation package for the carbon tax on the grounds that a falling carbon price means the tax won’t raise enough revenue to pay for the tax cuts.
It tends to ruin Labor’s hit-and-run attempts on Abbott for removing superannuation concessions for low-income earners meant to be paid for by the mining tax — on the basis the mining tax isn’t raising enough revenue to pay for them.
And it puts one hell of a dent in Labor’s campaign “scare” that in repealing the carbon tax, an Abbott government would also remove the compensation package attached to it: Labor has now announced it isn’t going to proceed with paying a hefty portion of those compensation monies in the first place.
Swan gets it half-right when he asserts that ”it’s certainly not a typical election budget…” but ruins his argument by adding the qualifier that the reason the budget is atypical is because ”you’ve got the sort of enormous complexity that we’re coping with here, but we’re going to get the settings right for the long term.”
Clearly, the ALP is in no position to dole out largesse and pre-election pork, chiefly due to its own mismanagement of the national finances, irrespective of anything Swan might offer as an excuse.
And any voter tempted to be swayed by spending promises outlined by the government at any stage, from the budget next week until polling day on 14 September is, quite frankly, an idiot.
If there is one thing this government has proven beyond doubt, it is that any commitment received from it should be regarded as meaningless.
Yet Swan and his rationalisations continue; he talks of ”unprecedented and unforseen circumstances,” revenue shortfalls, the high Australian dollar, falling company profits and the parlous state of the economies of Australia’s trading partners.
Perhaps some honesty — the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as I called it in this column the other night — would be a more palatable offering: tell the Australian public Labor got it wrong; that many of the government’s calls on economic policy, made in good faith, have proven erroneous; and as hard as it might be, an admission from the Treasurer that he, Wayne Swan, had made mistakes.
It wouldn’t fix the problem, and it wouldn’t win any votes.
But it might salvage a modicum of credibility and a sliver of respect, and the return from such candour might be that voters — armed with baseball bats and growing impatient of waiting on their verandahs for the ALP — would be a little less vengeful when the day of reckoning inevitably rolls around.
But no — such honesty isn’t the Labor way.
Instead, we have the self-important turd in the Treasurer’s office softening the country up for another tall tale about Labor and the coming budget surplus — in another four years.
And if anybody harboured lingering doubts over the credibility of this government, that renewing promise should dispel them once and for all.
Labor is prepared to say — and do — anything, and to hell with the consequences.
This latest development is another reason, in a long line of good reasons, why the ALP not only deserves to lose the election in September, but to lose it very badly indeed.
They never learn.