Tonight’s federal budget is make or break for the Gillard/Swan government. They are close to written-off, but not quite.
Ten years ago John Howard seemed headed for certain defeat, but dramatically changed direction during the Ryan by-election, taking a tax off beer and indexation off fuel excise.
At the time the pundits criticised him for reversing his positions, but the public didn’t care as long as he was doing what they wanted. His polling figures then started to improve, even before the Tampa headed over the horizon, and by the end of the year he was reelected.
Embracing the Pacific Solution in the form of the Malaysian solution may be a U-turn that the punters are prepared to accept. It’s tougher than anything Howard devised. Malaysia is further from Australia than any of Howard’s off shore detention centres, and while asylum seekers will be allowed to live in the community they won’t be eligible for social security, or allowed to work.
So not only don’t they get to Australia, but they get to starve while they wait for their case to be heard.
Will we see any U-turns like this in the budget?
I doubt it. All the signs are that taxes, prices and government spending will be going up but that the government hopes to convince the public that the reverse is happening.
It’s quite possible for voters to hold two conflicting views simultaneously without cognitive dissonance setting in.
So they may be buying Wayne Swan’s line that this is a “tough” budget at the same time as they are buying increased handouts to electorally vulnerable blocs and a $50 B deficit.
I’ll be doing some polling after the budget to see what voters’ reactions are. On Line Opinion is also looking for articles in response. Short ones are welcome as well as long ones, and if they won’t all fit in On Line Opinion we’ll publish them here. Just drop me a line email@example.com.