What comes from listening to your enemies and not your friends

Given the star studded cast here at Catallaxy, I am almost embarrassed to mention that I found my way into The Australian this morning, but there you are. It’s a story by Christian Kerr on the various kites that were flown in advance of the budget [mixed metaphor alert] to test the waters. Here is the relevant passage from the complete story:

An obsession with kite-flying and budget cosmetics has left the government reeling in the wake of the worst received economic statement in two decades, experts say. . . .

RMIT University economist Steve Kates said that hit was harder than it could have been because of “strangely muted” messaging from the government in its first months in power.

“What they needed to do was sit down and talk about the structure of the budget and the looming deficits right away,” Dr Kates said.

He said voters would have understood the need for cuts if they knew about “landmines” left behind by the Gillard government.

“They didn’t make the case about the state of the economy,” he said. “They left themselves ­extremely vulnerable.”

He said the release of the audit commission report was left too late, meaning its recommen­dations were lost among budget speculation.

The thing about the budget is that not one person came out and said, “that’s nailed it; just what we needed”. It has been disappointment all round, a gift to Labor. It is a major question where to lay blame for this screw up of a budget. It didn’t go anywhere near addressing the problems that needed to be addressed, it’s a mish mash of policies that are defensible but only barely, and the political side has been atrocious. Reading Martin Parkinson’s comments both yesterday on the budget and today on superannuation reminds me the extent to which Joe Hockey was led around by Treasury. This was Martin Parkinson yesterday:

The Australian public needs to know that the nation faces a challenge and a tough budget was necessary, Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson says.

Dr Parkinson said while it was not his role to comment on specific government policies, Australians “deserve” to know there is a challenge ahead.

“It’s within my responsibility as Treasury secretary to say to the community we do have to actually take this seriously to start to address the issue,” Dr Parkinson told a business lunch in Sydney on Tuesday.

“It is (a challenge) that if we start today to take sensible decisions, particularly those that are essentially structural policy changes that take place over time, we’ll be in a much better situation.

“Otherwise we’re banking the house on 33 years of uninterrupted economic growth and there’s no precedent for that.

“We’re banking on another 10 years of fiscal drag and … that has quite significant regressive impacts.”

Parkinson should have gone on Day One. Instead, a Labor man to his back teeth, he has led this government down a primrose path and into a wilderness of policies only a Keynesian could think would make a significant difference and even then, ones no Labor government would touch. Where were Hockey’s political instincts, never mind his economic judgment, when all this advice was being put to him? Doesn’t Joe read Catallaxy, and if not, why not?