Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Parliament House, November 2016

I’ve always been a sympathiser and supporter of Treasuries - federal and state. I think it comes from my background as an accountant, before I began an economic journalist. But in recent years I’ve become more critical of Treasuries’ performances.

I accept and respect that Treasuries see balancing the budget as their ultimate responsibility, the issue they care about most. After all, if they don’t accept ultimate responsibility for the budget, who will? Certainly not the voters and not even the politicians.

But tho worrying about the budget is necessary to the community’s economic progress, it’s not sufficient. If remaining vigilant on budget responsibility is all Treasuries do, it’s not nearly enough.

If Treasuries don’t also accept responsibility for micro-economic policy - for the efficiency with which industries are functioning, who else will?

Actually, the two issues - budgets and economic efficiency - overlap. And it’s in this overlap that I’ve become more critical of Treasuries.

I fear that, in their preoccupation with the budget, Treasuries have been behaving more like accountants than economists. They haven’t resisted the temptation to let the end justify the means. If some spending cut helps reduce the deficit, why worry whether it’s what Paul Keating called a “quality cut”?