Hello Again, Sydney

One Sydney-sider's experiences moving back to Sydney after a long absence overseas.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Stick that in your CPI and smoke it

England was once described as a nation of shopkeepers; Australia, surely, could be called a nation of economists.

Last night I sat down - as did a huge number of Australians - and watched the Federal Government present their budget. This is where they announce tax cuts/hikes and allocate money to spending programs. It's a chance for them to fulfil their election promises, and to give people an idea of their real intentions - to put our money where their mouths are. Traditionally this has meant that Labor splashes out on social spending, while the Coalition practises responsible economic management, delivering strong surpluses. Are you asleep yet?

Not if you're an Aussie. You'll be sitting in your lounge room debating the best way to counteract inflationary pressures and keep down interest rates; you'll be calculating the impact on your own income; and if you're at all partisan (aren't we all?) you'll be cursing that leftie Labor mob for spending too much, or reviling the Libs for giving more money to the rich. No matter which way you slice it, that's what it comes down to.

Still, it's pretty amazing that so many people in this country are au fait with concepts like the CPI, GDP and monetary/fiscal policy - and that so many people tune in to a watch a bunch of politicians sitting in a room painted such a nauseous shade of green. Does this happen in other parts of the world? And is it something we should be proud of?

As for the big talking points... Pre-mixed alcoholic drinks will be more expensive, as will luxury cars. (OK OK, it is boring.) The budget surplus will be put into funds for "nation building", which sounds aspirational and threatening at the the same time. And in our particular case, it'll mean about $20 a week more in the pocket. Better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick, as they say.