Laura Tingle is probably the country’s finest writer when it comes to sophisticated political analysis.
That’s what Mark Scott said the other day. In her Canberra observed column this week she didn’t hold back:
There are two possible explanations for how an opposition presenting itself as an alternative government could end up with an $11 billion hole in the cost of its election commitments.
One is that they are liars, the other is that they are clunkheads. Actually there is a third explanation: they are liars and clunkheads.
But whatever the combination, they are not fit to govern. (Emphasis added)
She says that Treasury and Finance found “what can only be described as a systematic exercise in creative accounting.”
The picture that emerges from the econocrats’ report is that the opposition very purposely created a dodgy set of numbers which were never expected to withstand any scrutiny and would require the intervention of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission if it was a company.
They tried to bluff their way through to polling day and are continuing the bluff now. The claim that the bureaucrats’ document proves the budget would be $7 billion better off under them she describes as “complete bullshit”.
I pause here to mention that Tingle has credentials in economics and in reporting on financial markets. There is a short bio here:
Laura moved into political reporting from economics, following a long period covering financial markets and deregulation for the Australian Financial Review and as economics correspondent for The Australian. She is also the author of Chasing the Future – a book documenting how the recession of the early 1990s changed Australia’s political and economic debate.
In the rest of the article she takes apart most of their claims in detail.
One example is the $2.5 billion saving in the “conservative bias allowance adjustment” in other words the contingency reserve. Honesty and their legal obligation to “certify that the estimates of the fiscal outlook reflect the best professional judgement of the departments” require Treasury and Finance to include the contingency reserve in full. But of course there is no such requirement on an incoming government. They can be as shonky as they choose.
Then there was the $3.3 billion of promises made out of a series of so-called capital funds.
The opposition pledged to spend this capital fund money either without knowing this would have a bottom-line effect on the budget, or deliberately lying about it.
When caught out the Opposition effectively asserted that they would find the money somewhere without specifying where.
She says that Treasury and Finance bent over backwards to be polite about all this. But the uncommitted independents should weigh up these matters very carefully indeed.
BTW if you’ve heard various figures the black hole Tingle says the correct amount is $10.6 billion.
There is further comment at Quick link: Peter Martin on Costingate and Tony Windsor says Treasury costings show Coalition black hole.