No, there is not actually a "budget emergency", and the constant spam about Labor's "spending" is unfair given we are actually talking about economic stimulus following the GFC - but, we do have a big deficit and it has to be fixed, and that means cuts to things we don't want to cut.
So, cuts to the public service? Expected. Not good - in some cases no doubt, terrible - but expected.
Return of the fuel excise? Not that terrible, a sensible measure.
Cuts to renewable energy programs? Totally expected given we all know where this government stands on that.
Cuts to family tax benefits? Both sides have had this on the agenda and the cuts were less than expected.
The income tax levy on higher-income earners: surprising for a coalition government, though of course it's not permanent.
But these things make me angry, firstly because they're wrong, but perhaps even more than that, because they are lies - they are nothing to do with fixing a "budget emergency", but are about ideology:
- $20 billion medical research fund. Medical research and science are absolutely great and all, but this is wrong for two reasons. Firstly, if we are truly in the grip of a dire budget emergency and all sorts of cuts have to be made, why commit to this now? Secondly, it is funded by huge cuts to public health funding, and the outrageous GP "co-payment". Somehow I feel like this has Tony Abbott's health freakery stamped all over it. I don't know how, but you know, "it's the vibe of the thing".
- $7 GP "co-payment" - very harsh, will have unintended (but entirely predictable) consequences, and it goes entirely against what Medicare is. Plus, it is nothing to do with fixing finances. $2 will go to the doctors (probably just to cover the admin required) and $5 to fund the medical research future fund. It is wrong, and unfair.
- Cuts to welfare generally. Abbott says we have to "break the welfare mindset". Well, there isn't one. Sure, there was in the past, from some people. But welfare bludging hasn't been a thing for years. People receiving disability pensions, Newstart and the like are already on the breadline. And also, why does "everyone" have to "chip in" to fix the deficit? Spread the pain, sure, but spare the very bottom. And yes, you could take a bit more from the top without hobbling business and waging class warfare.
- Funding increased for school chaplaincy program (despite growing public resistance to it) with removal of the current option for schools to use the funding to appoint a secular student welfare officer. It's religion or nothing. Sorry, but are we, or are we not, a secular state? And how can increased funding be found for school chaplains when school funding itself is being cut and we are in a budget emergency? Because the program is less about student welfare than proselytizing, that's why.
Look, for most of us it's not the end of the world. Times are tough economically, and things need to be done. This budget is not a total horror. I get sick of the silliness that is pervading public debate at the moment - that Abbott is evil, that Labor did no wrong whatsoever, that the government is sure to lose the next election (two years out!) based on its current unpopularity. I'm a measured person, and the truth for me is always in the middle.
But there are things that many of us are unhappy with, and I'll leave the last word to Mike Carlton at the SMH, who wrote this week:
It is a delicious irony that Abbott has destroyed the faith the voters placed in him. Endlessly blackguarding Julia Gillard for her broken carbon tax promise and trumpeting himself as a paragon of probity, he raised the bar.
On Tuesday he fell beneath it, face down in the mud, and will never be trusted again.