Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Australian budgets, past and present

Well, I am waiting for the budget while trying to cook tea. It has been the case for a long while, I remember the time when the budget speech actually had information in it, that one has to rely on the commentators for the overview. My interests are a little different.

I am not interested in the broad budget macro numbers unless there is a surprise. I am also not interested in the rhetoric unless this signals a shift in direction. I am interested in what I think of as the budget entrails.

It used to be the case in pre-TV times that you could actually rely on the budget speech itself for core information. This is no longer true. If you actually want to know what is happening, you have to dig down into the supporting documents. And these have to be downloaded individually.

So tonight I will listen with interest. I will also listen to and read the commentators so long as they are not too repetitive. They usually are, mind you. Then, later, I will go through the supporting material.

Here I am especially interested in just what has been cut. Mr Swan, the Federal Treasurer, appears locked into cuts. The pattern of those cuts will tell us a lot about future directions.


Well, blowed if I know. I have listened to Mr Swan and half an hour of the subsequent commentary. I found the budget hard to follow, given my focus. The commentary did not help. I really will have to dig in.

Postscript 2 - Wednesday Morning

I have spent an interesting hour digging through budget details, but have now to put the matter aside for the moment. For those who are interested, you will find the official budget site here. Budget paper number 2 provides portfolio details of changes by individual programs and activities.

I was fascinated to discover that the removal of discrimination towards same sex couples and their children is projected to yield net savings of $66 million over four years. I think that this comes about primarily through reduced benefit payments as gay couples move from the higher single to lower married benefit rates. There is quite a large up-front cost associated with system changes that is then clawed back over the next three years.

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