Treasurer Wayne Swan has come out on the defensive after suffering the election year ignominy of having to deliver a budget short on sweeteners and long on cuts and revenue raisers.
There’s a few measures in there aimed at delivering votes, like assistance to businesses in accessing the National Broadband Network and cash to standardise the business name register.
But there’s no headline-grabbing measure like last year’s promised company tax cut (which was never delivered), or the surplus which quickly evaporated.
There’s not much joy for business in a budget where it seems most of the funds being given away are to the Tax Office so it can try to raise more revenue.
The ATO’s getting funding boosts to close overseas loopholes, crack-down on 457 visas, and to target trusts.
In his budget speech Swan claimed he’s following the “responsible middle course” and shielding Australia from “radical cuts to the bone”, which he says would “risk jobs and our economy”.
He blames a “savage hit to tax receipts” for what amounts to an $18 billion deficit in this financial year.
But despite cuts to superannuation, the Baby Bonus and an increase in the Medicare levy, Swan is keen to portray this government as low-taxing and conservative.
“If we were taxing Australian families and Australian businesses like our predecessors did, we’d have an extra $24 billion in taxes in 2013-2014 and be comfortably in surplus every year of the forwards,” Swan said in his budget speech.
Right now with an election looming Swan must be wondering why he didn’t.