Thursday, April 26, 2018

Spreading the benefits. Where have I heard that before?

I had a sinking feeling in Sydney’s Four Seasons Hotel listening to Treasurer Scott Morrison guarantee that he would be able to deliver permanent tax cuts and properly fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme “in this year’s budget and beyond” without any longer needing an extra levy.

I’d heard it before, more or less, in the Great Hall of Parliament House in 2012. The speaker was Wayne Swan, Morrison’s long-term Labor predecessor, who after years of bad luck including the global financial crisis was finding revenue turning up.

“I am proud to announce a new Spreading the Benefits of the Boom package,” he told us. It was time to share the proceeds of the mining boom with families and businesses, and the disabled.

In the budget he had funded the first stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme - the first $1 billion over four years; he increased funding for dental services, aged care, hospitals, infrastructure and superannuation, all because “for too many Australians this feels like someone else’s mining boom''.

I wrote on my notepad that day that the boom would end when the demand for Australia’s minerals faded, but that the spending Swan had put in train to “share the benefits” would continue.

In retrospect Swan was unwise to be so generous with something that wouldn’t last, but few in the room that day spoke up.

In The Age and Sydney Morning Herald