This year’s federal budget was always going to be an artificially sweetened one. After stuffing the budget filled with treats — and just a few unexpected nasties — the Morrison government hopes that voters will go to the ballot box with a pleasant taste in their mouth. My colleague Bernard Keane summed it up well when he wrote that this document had a single political purpose: “This is a budget that will be defunct at 6pm on election day.”
But what about beyond this federal budget? Before this election cash splash, the Coalition had nearly a decade of budgets that can tell us who this government favours and who they’ve punished. Voters are smart enough to know that a government shows its true colours in the years when they aren’t headed to the polls.
One simple method to track this over time is tallying up who had been deemed the winners and losers of each budget to see if there were trends over the years. While far from perfect, looking at something like the media’s coverage of federal budgets gives a rough sketch of what was in the budget (which in turn reflects what the parties hoped to highlight).
Using the ABC’s “federal budget winners and losers” pieces since 2014 — starting with Abbott and Hockey’s austerity budget all the way to Morrison and Frydenberg’s blatant attempt at voter bribing — I was able to see which groups appeared the most, and whether they were consistently winners or losers.
Meanwhile, the big, consistent loser? Welfare recipients have been highlighted in budget coverage in six of the nine budgets and all but one of those times they were losers (this year’s $250 handout being the one “win” for them). Other losers include the public service, universities and their students, foreign aid and public broadcasting.
These numbers will surprise no one as they line up with the Coalition government’s ideological friends and foes. Everybody eats when an election is on the line — but history shows that only a predictable few should expect that same generosity from this government in the future.
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This article was first published by Crikey.