In a recent article in the Australian ($),* columnist Janet Albrechtsen claims the primary reason the current federal government is having trouble getting it’s economic reforms through Parliament is that people are not willing to make the needed sacrifices required to balance the budget and make government spending sustainable.
Although I don’t disagree with everything in her article, I think this is being a little harsh on the Australian people.
Bernard Keane had a much more balanced piece on the difficulty government’s face implementing a reform agenda in Crikey. He made the very good point that one factor that can make reforms difficult to pass is the perception of fairness. Will this reform help the majority of the population, or will most be forced to pay for the benefit of a few?
And this is one of the main problems the federal government faces in having its reform agenda passed. It is viewed as unfair by many, and an objective analysis of the outcomes of the (largely unpassed) 2014-15 federal budget indicate its impact would fall hardest or low and middle income households (hard to sell that as fair).**
At a time when inequality of wealth, income and opportunities is increasingly a public concern, a government budget that gives all appearances of increasing these inequalities was going to be a difficult sell, even if it also provided greater budget sustainability.
I didn’t see any of this mentioned in Albrechtsen’s piece. It would have been far more well-rounded if it had discussed the difficulties of getting hard reforms through parliament (and elections), balanced with the need for those reforms to be balanced and of benefit to the majority of the population.
* Although paywalled, if you google ‘We, the people, are the threat to fiscal reform’ you may be able to access it.
** Phillips, B. 2014. National and Regional Analysis of the 2014-15 Federal Budget. NATSEM, University of Canberra.
^ An earlier version of this post listed the last federal budget as the 2015-16 Budget. This was incorrect and has been amended.