Enjoy Your Budget, Suckers


Budget night is always a major event in the Australian calendar. While Anzac Day has the historical resonance, Australia Day has the celebratory atmosphere, and Schoolies Week has the rampant date rape, Budget Night is different. Budget night is the night when Australians everywhere, no matter what their race, creed or colour, are united in their firm belief that the Government should be giving them more money.

Just why and how the Government should be giving this money, though, is well beyond the ken of the average Australian. Life is hard enough, what with mortgages and private school fees and deceitful MasterChef dishes, without having to wade through the budget and unpick every miserly injustice and fiscal disgrace. This is why we have budget analysts to do it for you. And in particular, this is why newmatilda.com now presents my "Handy, Time-Saving 2010 Budget Guide for Ordinary, Stupid Australians". I am here to provide you with all the information you need to make sound financial whingeing noises. Here we go.

What kind of Budget was it?
As Treasurer Wayne Swan made clear, it was a "no-frills" budget. In other words, unlike previous budgets that were filled with frivolous bells, shiny whistles and extravagant thingamajigs, this one was filled with strict discipline, calm efficiency, and noble restraint. Not for Swan the 1997 budget, in which Peter Costello promised every adult male a free poodle; or the 1989 budget, in which Paul Keating stood on the balcony of Parliament House tossing diamonds to the crowd below. 

No, there was none of that sort of reckless profligacy. There was extra money for health, with a pledge to build 23 more GP super-clinics, which at the current rate may well be completed prior to the melting of the polar ice caps; there was also a boost to funding for elite athletes, which came as a great relief to all those "Aussie battlers" who had been fearing the global financial crisis might cause us a certain amount of embarrassment on the archery range.

But overall, it was a conservative budget, aimed squarely at keeping spending in check, boosting revenue, and returning to surplus in that nasty, stingy way that politicians have when they take all your money and then refuse to give it back.

What’s in the Budget for me?
That’s fairly hard to answer without knowing who you are.

Let us assume I am a middle-aged white male with an income between $40,000 and $60,000 and a strong sense of entitlement.
Then the Budget does not leave you completely empty-handed. You will get a tax cut that will leave you about $9 per week better off — easily enough to cover a weekly breakfast at Hungry Jack’s — and tax on interest on your savings will be cut. Also, you will be able to call a 24-hour hotline to find a doctor in your area at any time. This will come as an enormous help to the burgeoning and increasingly politically active nightclub-brawler demographic. As Nicola Roxon put it, "This means knowing that your loved ones can get the care they need." You yourself will not be entitled to any care, but your loved ones are all set. Should you have no loved ones, the Government will assign you some.

Will the budget help the country achieve fiscal solvency?
Indeed it will. Having last year spent such massive lashings of cash that the Opposition stated confidently that the deficit was just a few pennies away from taking on physical form and devouring peasants, it was a nice surprise to learn that in fact, the budget will return to surplus within just three years. This is conclusive proof that Wayne Swan is not just a sweat patch searching for a shirt to stain; he also knows about money and owns a calculator, or knows someone who does.

What part will the brand new "super-profits" tax play in Australia’s economic future?
The new Resource Super Profits Tax (or "RSPT") is a major plank in the hardwood floor of the Government’s fiscal policy. It will bring in $3 billion in its first year, and $9 billion per year after that, thanks to Australia’s bountiful natural mineral wealth. The downside, of course, is that it will cause all the mining companies to leave the country. "Take your mineral wealth and shove it," seems to be the miners’ attitude at present. The trouble with the Government is that it has neglected the number one rule of economics: nobody will want to make money if they can’t make more money than they otherwise might have made. All economists know that corporations, at heart, are proud, haughty creatures. They are happy to exploit resources and earn massive profits as long as they are treated with respect, but they would rather have no profits at all than have to stump up big chunks of them for the good of a bunch of lazy little proles who can’t even summon up the initiative to build an open-cut mine, let alone charge hyper-inflated prices to huge Chinese steel mills for the products of it.

If this RSPT is brought in, it seems inevitable that the companies will run off to Indonesia or Sudan or Ibiza or something, and all those minerals will just sit in the ground, undug and unloved. So it is probably best that we try to ignore the seductive riches that Swan, the wily old spiv, is promising us, and listen instead to Tony Abbott, who describes the RSPT as just "a great big new tax". Mind you, Abbott describes everything as a "great big new tax", including the emissions trading scheme, the company tax, the Medicare levy, and Julia Gillard’s hairdo. It’s part of his programming. But that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

How much of my hard-earned money will go to keep illegal queue-jumping economic pseudo-refugee terrorists living in the lap of luxury?
A massive amount — over $1 billion over the next 12 months. This amount would come down, of course, were the Government to institute a few simple commonsense measures, like taking away the asylum seekers’ minibar privileges, or reducing the size of the marching bands employed to welcome each boat to the country; but the Government refuses to do this because it is in thrall to the powerful and malevolent asylum seeker lobby.

Is the Opposition in favour of the 2010 Budget?
It is not. Surprisingly, in light of the many positives outlined by Wayne Swan, the Opposition seems reluctant to give unqualified support to Labor’s plans.

Shadow Treasurer and Chief Ogre Joe Hockey, in particular, was scathing, describing the Budget as "built on quicksand", a dangerous scenario indeed, given that this means the more the Budget struggles, the faster it will sink. The Opposition has pledged that if it is elected, it will immediately place the Budget on its back, and gradually move it forward until it can grab hold of a strong vine or tree branch. Hockey also made the point that the Government was basing its Budget on shaky assumptions, which is quite true. The Government is assuming, for example, that China will continue wanting our iron ore and coal; that smokers will keep buying cigarettes even though they are in ugly boxes; that Kevin Rudd will not get drunk and shove the education budget down a stripper’s underpants; and so on. Dangerous assumptions indeed, and yet the Opposition’s refusal to back the Government does seem a little churlish. Just for once, you’d think they could be good sports about things.

What is the opinion of distinguished News Ltd business commentator Terry McCrann?
McCrann has quite clearly stated that not only is this the worst Budget ever devised, a horrific grab-bag of over-taxing, over-spending, and wild speculation, but that he has conclusive evidence that the Prime Minister was long ago driven insane by congenital syphilis, and is even now plotting to have us all shot so he can steal our fillings and mould them into a gigantic statue of himself. McCrann also makes the point that the National Broadband Network is an underhand scheme to turn us all gay with gamma rays, and that Wayne Swan is the true identity of Jack the Ripper.

Am I still in danger of being killed by insulation?
No. The Budget earmarks funds for fixing the insulation fiasco, which means Peter Garrett will be forced to kill you with his bare hands.

Why can’t we hear the opinions of ordinary Australians whose lives are directly affected by the Budget?
Because they are mouth-breathing morons who say stupid things like, "There should be more money for childcare," or "I’d like to see more done to support small businesspeople." Really, they should all be rounded up and herded into pens, where they can be used to provide energy for important commentators in the media.

No, there are no frills in this budget, no gaudy baubles to distract the eye. Just a long-term plan to make sure Australia carries on towards tomorrow with strength and confidence. You may not have gotten much in the budget yourself, but thanks to the deeper understanding of the issues you have gained from pundits like me and Alan "Sex Bomb" Kohler, you can sleep soundly at night knowing that the money you didn’t receive is even now hard at work opening up hospital beds in rural areas, topping up the superannuation of low-income workers, and most importantly of all, buying thick, fluffy towels for Stephanie Rice.

It’s fiscal discipline we can believe in. Onward to prosperity, Australia!

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.