[News] Dominic Perrottet, Matt Kean’s bold, teal budget and re-election bid

Perrottet wants a return to co-operative federalism, and will happily work with a Labor Victorian Premier and Labor Prime Minister to achieve it.

And the reform doesn’t stop there. This pre-election budget is also the first post-election budget following the crushing defeat of the Morrison federal government. The NSW Liberal Party, with the least to learn from Scott Morrison’s many failings, is also the one that’s learnt most.

Genuine action on climate change, measures to improve the treatment of women in the workplace and the home, promoting co-operation rather than conflict and division, increased spending on early education, childcare and hospitals, the educated talking to the educated, Perrottet’s rejection of the pork barrelling condoned by his predecessor – this budget has everything.

I give you … Australia’s first teal budget.

Much of the credit needs to be shared with the new Treasurer, Matt Kean. He is a reforming Treasurer – with many of his predecessors’ mistakes needing reform. This budget is mercifully free of the funny-money deals that blighted so many previous efforts.

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean arrives to deliver his budget.

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean arrives to deliver his budget.Credit:Janie Barrett

The spirit of positivity that pervades the Treasurer’s fiscal rhetoric also infects his confidence that the budget will be back to surplus in a year or three, and the debt will one day stop growing. Should this optimism prove misplaced, there’s always scope for adjustment after the election.

The government is rightly proud of all it’s done building new metros, light rail and expressways. But the Coalition’s original desire to get on with a hugely expensive transport infrastructure program while limiting the state’s debt and preserving its triple-A credit rating, led it into crazy arrangements to hide much of the debt by, for example, paying businesses such as Transurban over-the-odds to do the borrowing for it.

Now Sydney, much more than any other city, is girdled by a maze of private tollways, most with a licence to whack up the tolls quarterly or annually by a minimum of 4 per cent a year. What was that about fighting inflation and the cost of living?

This was always a way of keeping official debt down by shifting the cost onto the motorists of present and future decades.

This ill-considered mess has proved so costly to people in outer-suburban electorates that the latest “reform” is for taxpayers to subsidise the worst-affected motorists – and thereby the excessive profits granted to the tollway companies.

Loading

Another false economy was to fatten the sale price of privatised ports and electricity companies by attaching to them the right for the new owner to increase prices and profitability. This has played a small part in all the trouble we’re having now making the National Electricity Market work for the benefit of users rather than big business.

In my home town, a formerly secret deal to enhance the sale price of Port Botany is effectively preventing the Port of Newcastle from responding to the looming decline of the coal export trade by setting up a container terminal.

And all that’s before you get to the creative accounting madness of transferring the state’s railways to the still-government owned Transport Asset Holding Entity.

Perrottet, who was up to his neck in that trickery, seems to be making a better fist of Premier than treasurer. And Kean seems a better Treasurer than his many Coalition predecessors. But will that be enough to cover all the missteps of the past?

Our Breaking News Alert will notify you of significant breaking news when it happens. Get it here.

Source link