Allan Takes Aim Blog

Cicero would do it all differently

Posted on: 2 February 2012

Published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday January 31, 2012

The budget and Grandma’s Lye soap

Whenever I hear politicians promise to make sure older people have a good life,help people with a disability and a multitude other problems, Johnny Standley’s old gospel style song ‘Grandma’s Lye soap’ comes unbidden to mind. The song “Remember Grandma’s Lye soap, Good for everything in the home – and the secret was in the scrubbing – It wouldn’t suds, and couldn’t foam,’ best describes for me the politicians’ promises.

Probably most Australians have never heard of lye soap which got it’s name due partly to the fact that shortly after clothes were washed using lye soap for washing clothes they had a habit of disintegrating. (If you substitute lie for lye, this should remove any puzzlement you might have about the relationship between Lye Soap and Politicians.)

Metaphorically speaking, lye soap has great relevance at budget time and with Canberra soon to face both a Federal and ACT Budget it is particularly relevant when you read the great Roman Philosopher Cicero’s words about what a budget should be. “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. Instead of living on assistance, we must again learn to work.”

But I doubt even Cicero could have foreseen that more 2000 years later, budgets would have departed from philosophy and become tools treasurers would use to enhance their image. That said when the Federal budget (I nearly wrote pre-election budget) is brought down although it might seem to meet Cicero’s philosophy in part, it will be seen fairly quickly that it is more in line with Grandma’s prediction. And when this happens people already finding it difficult to pay either their mortgage, rent or keep their small business going, might be in for the biggest shock of their lives.

Some will accept this stoically and say Que Sera, Sera, while others used to being let down by government will ask their doctor for a pill to relax so that they can rest up and build their mental strength so as to withstand any shocks the budget contains. I can only add that I have yet to experience a budget that didn’t shock.

Budget optimists take a different tack. As they watch the Treasurer on TV spin his fairytale of bad news in glowing language that suggests everything in life’s garden is rosy, they wash down a Bex with a strong cup of tea or something stronger.

But what of the ACT budget?

For some unknown reason, and unlike Cicero, both the Federal and ACT Treasurers seem more concerned about a budget surplus than a balanced budget. Indeed it seems the Federal Treasurer wants to achieve his objective this year even if it means that old cars will become home for many distressed families because they have not been able to pay their mortgage or rent; or that people will be living in homes without electricity or gas; or that they will have to live on one meal a day not to mention that children at school will be seriously disadvantaged.

But even if the Federal Treasurer achieves his objective, as good Australians, the distressed will be so pleased they will dance and sing his praises as they wend their way to Centrelink, St Vinnie’s, The Salvation Army, Smith Family or some other charity, chanting Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi Oi Oi. And during their break from chanting and singing his praises they will demand a monument be erected in memory of his great feat of achieving a surplus

And what of the ACT’s treasurer? Unlike his Federal colleague the ACT treasurer does not seem to be aiming for a surplus this year, not that it’s likely he would achieve one anyway. But wealthy as Canberra is, his Federal colleague’s budget is still likely to affect it.

I suspect too, that the ACT budget will be used to boost Centenary Year, because if the Year is to achieve the success the ACT Government wants, lots of money will be required. The result: Canberra’s distressed families are likely to become even more distressed.

The Chronicle,for Canberra’s best community news. Publsihed every Tuesday


35 Responses to "Cicero would do it all differently"

As I say to anyone who wants to listen (no-one so far this year) a government is not a business and should not be making a profit. Our tax money is supposed to be used for the benefit of the collectivity. Any money that has been taken from us but has not been used, should be returned to us in one way or another, and the taxes that provided a profit (or “surplus” in government jargon) should be reduced the following year. What’s all this hoarding of public money about, anyway?

Lady Marilyn has made the kind of comment that should make people interested in deomocracy and good government think.

That said I hope what she has to say encourages interested people, wherever they live, to make their own comment after reading “Cicero would do it all differently.”

More comments about whether of not they agree with either the article or Lady M will help to spread the message about making democracy work better better and the importance of good government. And don’t just comment at, send a letter to The Chronicle editor

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