Allan Takes Aim Blog

Leaks aint what they used to be

Posted on: 13 June 2012


Published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 12 June 2012

Much as it might look like it, the title heading this column is not a crossword puzzle question although it refers to a puzzle that ACT voters need to solve over the next few months. The puzzle: is the recent budget brought down by ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr a Robin Hood budget or Shylock budget?

As they attempt to solve it I wonder what they will think: will they think the Treasurer has taken on the role of a latter day Robin Hood intent on robbing Canberra’s allegedly rich people then, in concert with Labor’s merry government band, he gives this money to the poor? Or is he a Shylock because even if the poor can’t afford to pay for many current services and facilities, if they want to get them in the future he says they will also have to pay more.

And while the Treasurer insists his budget is fair it is not a view universally accepted by the community. Indeed many budgets today (Andrew Barr’s included) have a Nostradamus feel about them. (Nostradamus is a famous 16th Century French Apothecary and seer noted for his predictions about the future: for example, the French Revolution, Napoleon, Adolph Hitler, the atomic bomb, 9-11 atrocity, JFK and RFK Assassinations and other events still to come.)

However, as happened with Nostradamus in France, and apart from social, political and business commentators in Canberra a number of other people will have a different set of predictions. Naturally the Liberal Opposition will produce different predictions from the details presented in the budget and will also present alternative predictions in their budget right of reply in the Assembly. As to what the Greens will do is open to question particularly as they support the budget.

There is also a plethora of people and organisations that either praise or criticise the budget. While every budget has things that could be criticised or praised one item about this budget I will criticise is, it is anything but certain that the Government’s 5, 10 and 20 years plan of taxation reform will eventuate as it wishes. Indeed, as time passes not only will Canberra’s society change, so too will Government and the structure of the Assembly.

During the above 5,10 and 20 years periods, many new ideas from many different minds will come to bear on the future of the ACT and if only to satisfy one’s curiosity about that, one need only read the comments about the budget from the different players in ACT politics for that to become clear.

That’s as much as I’m going to say about the ACT budget per se but I have a few comments to make about budgets in general. For a start I now have doubts if having a dedicated budget day today isn’t just a waste of time that would be better used working on projects to make life better for voters. My reason for saying this is because, with each passing year, details of Federal State and Territory budgets are broadcast by the electronic media and appear in the press so that everyone knows what the budget is before its official release.

Once upon a time, government outrage about budget leaks was genuine but today such announcements are shams. Gone are the days of genuine budget leak such as the one that will live long in the annals of Australian political journalism. This happened in 1980 when Laurie Oakes, then working for Network Ten in the Canberra Press Gallery, published details of the Federal budget before the budget’s release. In time honoured fashion Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser declared the leak outrageous despite the rumour that the leak was political payback.

In the ensuing years, however, budget leaks have become fashionable. Indeed despite volumes of rhetoric to the contrary, Governments today make only weak attempts to stop budget leaks for the very good reason that such leaks have become strategic weapons in a Government’s political arsenal. They have become good news missiles used by governments to pre-emptively launch policies they hope voters will like and as a result cause panic in the ranks of the opposition.

Today, the launch pads for these missiles are Facebook and Twittter.
dca@netspeed.com.au

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best Community news.posted online Wednesday http://www.chronicleonline.com.au .

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