Wanted: Somebody to hand out massive piles of cash to everyday Aussies (Santa need not apply)

The government has already begun splashing the cash ahead of next year’s Federal Election, but the problem is getting the help to those in greatest need, writes David Fagan

May 21, 2024, updated May 21, 2024
Treasurer Jim Chalmers during television interviews after the Budget was delivered last night at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

Treasurer Jim Chalmers during television interviews after the Budget was delivered last night at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

The budget, as you would expect, has drawn the battle lines for next year’s federal election – it might be a housing election, it might be a migration election, it will certainly be an election dominated by the cost of living.

And it will be an election of clear (if not very good) choices.

On one hand, we have Labor with a bold plan to reshape the economy with government more instrumental in commercial decisions, but with a conceded inability to distribute financial support to those who most need it.

Instead it has a policy to send energy subsidy handouts to everyone who gets an electricity bill, regardless of need. Those in least need will get two, maybe three or more, handouts. This is because the government is not confident its taxation, welfare, health rebate or other payment systems can do the job that should be expected in the 21st Century.

On the other hand, we have the Coalition with direct actions in mind to combat the shortages of housing, the cost of living and the general decline of public services but it’s the same Coalition that has been in power for 18 of the past 25 years when all those problems it laments were festering in plain sight.

Still, we get to choose. And, in Australia, we have to choose. It’s the beauty of our system of both a democracy that is robust and one that compels us all to participate at least once every three years.

Politicians, when you speak to them privately, always regret the things they didn’t get to do. And they frequently despair of the inability to take longterm actions that carry through electoral cycles.

Jim Chalmers, to his credit, has used the Treasurer’s pulpit to stare through the cycle and outline actions he believes can set us up for a world with a changed energy mix, different trade flows and greater conflict. But before he even gets near that hoop, he has to clear one important obstacle. And that’s the impact of his budget on inflation and interest rates.

No credible economist agrees with the Treasurer that his energy bill giveaways and other budget spending will not be inflationary. If he’s wrong, his credibility is shot. And so is his shot at using the balance sheet of big government to set us up for the future he realistically imagines.

Credit too to Peter Dutton for relentlessly zeroing in on the issues most in voters’ minds. Not just housing but increased crowding in our cities, the social instability and crime that goes with it and the costs denting household budgets.

InQueensland in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

He, more than Labor, is emphasising the impacts of high migration and has his sights set sharply on the role universities (no friends to the Coalition) have in luring overseas students without regard to their impact on housing or the social mix.

None of these concerns are new. And don’t forget that Peter Dutton has been on the frontbench of every conservative government since John Howard made him a minister in 2004 – 12 years all up. These have been his problems to help solve and it’s on him to convince the electorate he really can do it next time around.

It’s the privilege of journalists, as some of my politician friends like to remind me, to pass judgment without taking responsibility. We’re no different to voters really.

But this passing of judgment can be a frustrating business sometimes. In a prolific two years late last decade, I had two books published – one of them on the impact of the digital revolution, the other on the impact on this poor little rich country of a litany of poor, sometimes unethical, decisions.

Among the issues highlighted in both books were the untouchability of the digital giants, the change to our society from high immigration rates which now see one-third of Australians having been born in another country and the rising decline in trust of all institutions, particularly government.

I wrote then, as I write now, as an optimist that we can overcome this. Maybe we need to crash before we can crash through to maintain or build our place in a world which looks at Australia as a place of relative cohesion, one worth emulating.

But we need better choices and better systems of government. Let’s hope they emerge over the next year or so.

(David Fagan is the author of Wake Up – The Nine H#shtags of Digital Disruption, UQP 2017 and Has The Luck Run Out?, Hachette 2019)

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy