Budget cash stashed

Tuesday’s Federal Budget announcement appeared on first inspection to be a measured financial plan for the coming four years, designed to deliver two incredibly important initiatives and a mountain of savings. On closer inspection, one inconspicuous line on the ledger could signal a pre-election spending spree.

The Treasurer listed $463.9 million against an item “decisions taken but not yet announced” and Deloitte Access Economics director Chris Richardson said this was likely to mean a spate of positive campaigning announcements pre-election. “Yes, it is a war chest and they’re holding back a bit of money here that will be announced before the election,” he said.

This is an increase on the $119.4 million against the same item in last year’s Budget and the Treasurer denied it was pre-election spending and stated that there were reasons for the items to be listed that way. “Some of them can be commercial matters in confidence,” he said.

While Mr Richardson agrees that some of these items could be commercial in confidence, it was likely that the bulk of the money would be targetted for pre-election spending in marginal electorates. Budget and forecast director at Macroeconomics, Stephen Anthony, agreed and said the explanation was simple, “That’s election spending”.

Time is running out for any commitment of how this money will be spent. If announcements are not made before the Government enters caretaker mode then, technically, the money would also be available to the Coalition to spend.

Jamie Briggs, the Coalition’s spokesman for scrutiny and budget waste, said the amount was unusually high. “It does seem a lot of money still to be spent so close to the end of the financial year. We will be looking at this very closely and we’re not ruling out it being a war chest,” he said.

Read more at BrisbaneTimes.com.au 

Opinion: Not to be trusted

In just 117 days Australia will go to the polls to elect the party which will govern our great country for the next three years, but are we being given any real alternatives?

Last Tuesday Wayne Swan delivered a very measured budget press conference which I was fortunate enough to attend. He remained calm despite having to back track on his promise of a surplus and instead deliver the news that the 2013-14 financial year would result in a deficit of $19.4 billion.

I walked away thinking that while everything may not be rosy with the country’s coffers, we were about to see two initiatives of which we should be proud. In this period of political turmoil when the Government faces a backlash for everything it does, it’s easy to overlook the tremendous importance of DisabilityCare Australia and the National Plan for School Improvement. But make no mistake, these are two reforms which will place Australia well ahead of other OECD countries – only a country in a strong economic position could afford to implement and deliver such plans.

However, it appears that not everything has been itemised in great detail in Tuesday’s budget. News that the Government has almost $500 million tucked away for ‘good news’ spending pre-election is surprising. Now that may not seem like a lot of money, but in a budget where the margins are tight, it still rates as a significant amount.

How this money will be spent remains to be seen, but we can expect a few announcements in the near future by which to curry favour with those most marginal electorates.

Tony Abbott on the other hand is all about cutting spending further and appears not to care about making popular financial announcements. News that the Coalition will move to delay by two years the proposed increase in the superannuation guarantee, from 9 to 12 per cent, has incensed the Government. A “sneak peek of the vicious cuts to the bone” the country could expect, was the assessment of Cabinet Minister, Anthony Albanese, about the announcement. “Mr Abbott has said himself that he believes compulsory superannuation is a con job, so it is little wonder that he’s made this appalling commitment,” Mr Albanese said.

Given that this announcement by the Coalition comes hot on the heels of Mr Abbott’s promise to cut the tax benefit on super contributions for those earning under $37,000, which sees super balances boosted by approximately $500 per annum for low income earners, it’s difficult to disagree.

So, it appears that, come 14 September I will have the choice between a Government which will apparently go into deficit to try and make life better for those more disadvantaged and a Government hell bent on making life difficult for those who can least afford it. Choice? What choice?

Will you vote in September with a heavy heart or do you see that one party clearly deserves your support?

Written by Debbie McTaggart