Is it possible for a budget to be popular?

Ben Chifley was one of Australia’s finest Treasurers. At one point in his career, he was reported as saying that it is utterly impossible to produce a budget that a majority of voters will find acceptable.

Both Peter Costello and Wayne Swan will testify that Chifley’s comments were close to the mark. So, it is not a surprise that this year’s budget was greeted with hysteria by lots of otherwise intelligent people who believe that they have a holy calling to say the worst possible things that they can think of about everything that the Gillard government does. They truly believe that if they can be seen to have had a prominent role in bringing this government down, they will have earned the right to be treated with great warmth when St Peter greets them at the pearly gates of Heaven.

Really, they are a very sad lot who love power more than they care for Australia. Of course, there are things that many of us would have chosen not to put in this Budget but, overall, it was not a bad effort. It was probably the best of Wayne Swan’s five budgets in that it made a genuine attempt to go into surplus — something that every nation on earth should do for decades to come.

Hand-outs always worry me, particularly when they benefit the middle class, rather than concentrating on those in genuine need. It is a comment that I often made to John Howard, who turned middle class welfare into an art form that won elections.

I can understand the rationale behind compensating those most affected by any increase in the cost of living caused by the carbon tax. But, I feel also that, if it is vital for us to protect the environment by implementing the carbon tax, then we all should bear some part of the cost of meeting the challenge, otherwise it’s not really a crisis issue.

Nevertheless, I have a feeling that the carbon tax won’t have as bad an economic effect as the doomsayers lead us to believe.

It will be a bit like the implementation of the GST. Back then, there was panic among voters in a similar manner to the experience of today as Kim Beasley and Simon Crean constantly attacked John Howard over the economic devastation that they forecast the GST would cause. But, it went through quite smoothly, life went on as normal and Howard earned his spurs as an economic reformer.

Tony Abbott may find himself in a similar position to Beasley and Crean.