Because there will be an election in just over a month the Budget is aimed at injecting sugar hits into the electorate. And no doubt Labor will match these sugar hits.
It is regrettable that the extra money will not be used to come up with a vision for the future of our country, with good long-term policies attached to it.
There is no doubt that the forecasted Budget surplus is a good thing, and under normal circumstances it should guarantee an election win. But these are not normal times.
The Budget reflects the policies of this government over the last six years. These have delivered an enormous amount of chaos, and the policies that were implemented were mostly based on short-termism. For the last six years there has been a total absence of long-term national vision, be it on energy, communication, climate change, transport, healthcare, education or elsewhere.
What the country desperately needs is a range of long-term policies in all these areas. Instead, what we are getting is a range of short-term hand-outs and tax cuts; and under the $100bn infrastructure promise we will most likely see a hotchpotch of upgrades of local traffic issues such as: road crossings, bridges, playgrounds and potholes. Expect pork barrelling in the marginal electorates, where ‘infrastructure’ handouts will be on offer.
Again, there is no long-term policy underpinning this infrastructure plan. And high-speed rail has again been mentioned, a promise that goes back to the 1980s – this has become laughable.
Short-termism will never deliver the long-term outcomes the country needs. These require leadership, respect from the electorate, and trust in those we give the political power to develop visions for the country. Budgets need to be linked to such programs – budgets that can be adjusted according to the circumstances that arise over the years, without becoming a target in partisan party politics.
The Budget is all about cranes, hard hats and heavy machinery. These are all needed, but we can do things smarter, and that did not get a mention. Nevertheless, digital technologies have advanced to such levels that they will of course play a role in many of the government’s announced plans, especially when it comes to issues such taxation and electoral systems, revenue collection, cracking down on the black economy and most likely also in the healthcare initiatives. But it doesn’t get a mentioning, just making sure there are no references to the previous hi-tech Prime Minister
Digital technologies will play a key role in all of this, and they are great enablers. ‘Smarts’ should be added to well-designed policies in all aspects of our society and the economy. It was a pity that the Treasurer didn’t mention any initiatives around the use of these technologies. Communication, digital and online, was only used once in relation to skills, safety, regulatory funding and a minor study for an agriculture project in WA. Nothing on using digital technology as crucial enabling tools in the transformational processes that our country desperately needs in a rapidly changing global environment.
Over the last six years we have seen more failures than successes. The NBN was going to be faster and cheaper but it ended up later, more expensive and second-rate. There was the much-celebrated innovation summit but none of the innovation plans discussed there were followed up, let alone implemented. And let’s not even talk about smart energy, a total disaster area for this government.
The current Budget also has no long-term plans on which businesses can base their own long-term investment plans. This requires long-sighted policy certainty in many of the areas where there is currently more chaos than clear vision.
Some of the more recent disastrous short-term policies in the ICT industry are an indication of what will lie ahead in the digital economy if the current government is re-elected.
The so-called Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) in relation to cyber security and the newly proposed social media (Facebook) laws are being rushed through legislation. The long-term implications of these Bills have not been thought through and will have a disastrous effect on the industry without delivering the outcomes the government aims to achieve. The currently proposed Facebook regulation is nothing less than crazy, totally unrealistic and plain stupid – quickly cobbled together to get a political election advantage.
We can add the NBN to this as well. No vision, short-term policies and, as a result, a financial mess. This should have been a strong foundation for a digital economy and for major initiatives in areas such as healthcare and education. The NBN as a major economic and social tool doesn’t even get a mention, a clear example of what happens with short-term policies, which always fail to deliver what politicians promise.
The promises for science and R&D funding are annulated by the various cuts in other parts these sectors. These short-term decisions are disastrous for long-term science and R&D developments – projects can be cut and highly qualified expert staff sacked, only to be started from scratch again when new money becomes available.
It is a real pity that now, as more money is becoming available, there is no vision for the future, underpinned by solid long-term policies that can be used to wisely invest the Budget surplus for the benefit of the country.