Hockey Delivers Supremely Boring Budget

Words by: Matt Norman
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Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey appears to have learned a political lesson from the backlash to last year’s controversial Budget, delivering the most boring document he could manage in Canberra last night. Devoid of last year’s ideological boldness, this budget is a shining example of fiscal neutrality.

There are few real winners or losers. Small businesses received the expected 1.5% tax break, while incentives were created and enhanced for companies to hire both older and younger workers. A tighter assets test will see funds shift from pensioners with high-value assets to those more in need. Anti-vaccination parents won’t be eligible for child care payments, which serves them right, and graduates living overseas will have to repay their HELP debts – which, let’s face it, kind of makes sense.

The arts are up in arms, with the budget revealing a strong vote of no confidence in the Australia Council and funding instead being directed to the new ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’, over which it appears Minister George Brandis will hold significant influence. Commentators have expressed concerns at this move away from our traditional ‘arms-length’ approach to arts funding, and have warned against the politicization of this policy area.

Aside from that (somewhat muted) debate, this year’s budget is indicative of the government’s intention to avoid a repeat of the political furore following last year’s effort.

With a timid and relatively even-handed conservatism, Hockey hopes to regain the trust of the voting public and rebuild his reputation as a reliable economic administrator.