It was always thus: the new pandemic-era federal budget handed down by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg this week has drawn the usual responses from academic pundits, Opposition spokespeople, welfare and health sector observers, and commentators from the fourth estate.
“Not enough!”, Too much!”, “Missed opportunities!”, “What about us!?”, “Well done!” … “A failure!”.
The complexities of a federal budget always gives us plenty to study and talk about, but on this occasion, the delivery of a budget which contains a massive $74.6 billion spending splurge and leaves us with a $161 billion deficit and the prospect of more years of big (but declining) deficits is a legacy of a confluence of events that few could have predicted three years ago.
The global coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has altered the world in many ways, socially and economically.
But, even as that emergency and its dire level of seriousness continues, Australia has weathered many of the worst consequences still impacting many nations around the globe.
Our continental isolation, coupled with firm action to close borders and a scientifically-driven response to limit the spread of COVID and governmental decisions to ensure protection for our social and economic well-being during the crisis has put Australia in a relatively sound position compared to other nations.
The COVID crisis has, however, generated phase-change in our economic and social progress.
We have had to become far more health-conscious as a nation, we have had to surrender some rights in order for the society as a whole to weather the storm, governments have had to abandon once-sacred economic precepts about balanced budgets in order to preserve jobs and incomes, and there is a realisation that the future may have a different shape to what we once thought.
The Morrison government is committed to policies of wide-ranging job creation, more workplace education, infrastructure building and greater national economic self-reliance, more programs aimed at ensuring social and economic rights for women, for people with disabilities, home ownership, health care – and the ageing.
The new emphasis on funding of social welfare programs follows years of criticism about existing short comings in such programs and an expectation that governments could do more in these areas.
The new focus on job creation and the rising demand by the community for better funded social welfare and health programs will, of course, come at a cost.
Added to this will be the realisation that national net debt is on target to hit an unacceptably high 40.9 per cent of GDP in mid-2025.
The pandemic has generated the equivalent of a war-time economy in this country.
Governments everywhere have had to borrow from the future to secure the present.
This trend has been world-wide.
A consequence has been the creation of a global ocean of trillions of dollars by economies desperate to fund roads away from depression and social tragedy towards a ‘normal’ future.
A debt-laden Australia must build a healthy, diverse, and highly productive economy in the years ahead.
Some will quibble at the foundation being laid by the federal government to achieve this objective but most thoughtful observers believe that the basic objectives are reasonable and sound.To order photos from this page click here