Opinion

Budget hoopla unwarranted

by
May 06, 2016

Epic treatment - the federal treasurer Scott Morrison speaks to journalists at Parliament after the budget.

Now that Budget Day has been celebrated we can all get back to our little lives of lawn mowing rounded with a sleep.

But let’s not forget what a magnificent day Tuesday, May 3, was.

It began with ScoMo being filmed and photographed walking to Parliament for a film and photograph session with the prime minister.

There they sat around a table and played the demanding roles of decision-making men who hold the future of the nation in their hands — while being filmed and photographed.

It was a bravura performance, which Johnny Depp could learn a lot from.

Then later on we had the budget speech when the treasurer delivered the immortal words:

‘‘Mr Speaker, this cannot be just another budget, because these are extraordinary times.

‘‘This budget is an economic plan, it’s not just another budget.’’

I’m being facetious here.

Of course, a budget is important.

It sets out how we are going to raise money and then spend it.

But does it really have to be the defining moment of the Australian national psyche?

In America they have the State of the Union address, in which the president reports on the condition of the nation and outlines his (or perhaps her?) legislative agenda and priorities.

The address is broadcast live across the nation on radio and television and talks about grand themes, such as fundamental freedoms, foreign policy, and political rights as well as nuts and bolts stuff on taxes and revenue.

In the UK the Queen addresses parliament and sets out her government’s agenda at the start of a new parliament, she also addresses the nation in her annual Christmas speech, in which she eloquently sums up the mood and hopes of her country.

In Australia we have the budget.

So Australian political history has become a dull litany of famous budgets.

Where US President Roosevelt talked about the Four Freedoms in 1941, and set the cornerstone of modern democratic expectations, we have bracket creep, negative gearing, structural deficit and forward estimates.

The only thing that piques my interest in budget speeches is the annual discussion around black holes.

Unfortunately it’s not the intergalactic variety, but the phrase does conjure mystery and suspense.

Of course Australians are a pragmatic, practical people.

The soul of our nation doesn’t live so much in grand speeches as in practical deeds, such as sport and buildings.

But if we really want to inspire people, create a united vision, build dreams and look into the future we need a proper platform.

A budget is an important thing, it sets the fiscal agenda.

But is it really an inspiring Four Freedoms-type address to the nation?

I don’t think so.

A budget is the majestic bean-counting dream of an accountant.

It doesn’t deserve the hoopla that gives it the status of a mighty nation-building speech.

We are more than a hill of beans.

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