How much does the Treasury's view of the world change when a prime minister comes to power, sacks the head of Treasury (and his heir apparent) and replaces him with his own hand-picked man from outside the public service?
That's what the economic cognoscenti were asking last week when our first political appointment as Treasury secretary, John Fraser, made his first public appearances at a Senate estimates hearing and as a speaker at a conference of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.
Fraser had risen to the rank of deputy secretary when he left Treasury in 1993 to make his name and fortune as an investment banker at the global level of the UBS bank. It's hard to imagine such an old and rich chap would hang around long if he found his advice wasn't being heeded.
From what he's said so far, you don't get the feeling Fraser has spent the past 22 years keeping tabs on the Australian economy or keeping abreast of the latest applied research on fiscal policy. Even so, he's a man of strong and confidently held opinions, who isn't afraid to tell you about them.
His views were pretty conservative when he left Treasury, at a time when the views of Treasury itself were more cautious than they've been in recent years, and his time as a chief executive is unlikely to have radicalised him.
Dr Martin Parkinson and Dr Blair Comley seem to have been sacked for their lack of scepticism about climate change, so we can presume Fraser doesn't share that failing. I may be wrong, but I don't see him as someone who wastes much time worrying about "wellbeing frameworks".
We know from his evidence to the Senate that he's a great admirer of Ronald Reagan's tax cuts of the early 1980s (which did so much to lay the foundations for America's present towering public debt), but has "old-fashioned" views about the evil of public debt.
He is sceptical about using the budget to stimulate the economy when it's very weak – which means he's invalidated one of the best arguments for getting debt down: the need to "reload the fiscal cannon" ready for the next recession.
And he thinks the policy of "austerity" practised in Britain and (by default) America has been a great success. This opinion he expressed to the Senate and backed up with figures in his later speech.
To silly people on the left, "austerity" is a swear word you slap on any budget saving you disagree with. But it really means a policy of cutting the budget deficit hard even while the economy is very weak.
The lefties never understood that Joe Hockey's first budget was carefully crafted to involve minimal net cuts to the deficit in the first three years, with the big hit delayed until 2017, when the economy was expected to be back growing strongly.
So, is true austerity about to come to Oz under the advice of the new Treasury boss? You might think so. Fraser says "we need to start now" and repairing the fiscal (budgetary) position is "an immediate priority".
But I'm not so sure. Later in his speech he advocates "committing now to savings measures that build over time to deliver a return to surplus over the medium term". And asked if now was the time to cut savagely considering the weak outlook, he said the coming budget would have to be "tailored to the situation".
While much of what Fraser has said so far is what you'd expect of an Abbott appointee, some of it isn't. His summary of how the budget got into its present state doesn't put all the blame on Labor, but acknowledges the role of excessive tax cuts and spending by the Howard government.
And while noting that government spending has grown at an average real rate of more than 4 per cent a year since 2007-08 (mainly under Labor), he also noted that it grew by about 3.5 per cent a year over the four years to 2007-08 under the sainted Howard government.
He is sharply critical of the increase in "middle-class welfare" in Howard's last years, including Peter Costello's (obviously unsustainable) superannuation changes, which he highlights for reform.
And unlike the huge majority of economists, he frankly admits the great drawback to using immigration to boost economic growth: it "places additional demands on government budgets in areas such as infrastructure, health and education".
Maybe high immigration, but inadequate investment in business equipment, housing and public infrastructure, help explain why our rate of productivity improvement isn't as great as Fraser says we need.