ANU experts preview the 2015 federal budget

8 May 2015

Treasurer and prime minister are facing a real test of their ability to manage in tough times: nothing they have faced over the last 12 months will persuade their political opponents in Parliament to make life easier for the government.

On Tuesday 12 May Treasurer Joe Hockey will unveil the second Abbott Government budget.

Leading experts from The Australian National University (ANU) have given their perspective of the budget and its implications for Australia.

POLITICS

Dr Jill Sheppard, Australian Centre for Applied Social Research Methods

"In regular surveys, we have seen Australians' satisfaction with the direction in which their country is heading only start to recover following the May 2014 Budget announcements. From the 2015 Budget measures that have already been foreshadowed, we can probably expect that recovery to continue. Indeed, based on Australians' dissatisfied response to the previous Budget, the Abbott Government may be able to leverage low expectations into popular support. Though as with any 'budget bounce' it will likely disappear as quickly as it appears."

Professor John Uhr, Policy and Governance Program, Crawford School of Public Policy

"Last year's budget was a mess, procedurally. This year's budget has got to be better, procedurally. Treasurer and prime minister are facing a real test of their ability to manage in tough times: nothing they have faced over the last 12 months will persuade their political opponents in Parliament to make life easier for the government.

"The government has sensibly called for bipartisanship: but only if it drops some of its own partisanship will bipartisanship emerge."

Emeritus Professor John Warhurst, School of Politics & International Relations, Research School of Social Sciences

"This Budget means everything for the Abbott government. The politics is crucial. It must be well received."

Dr Norman Abjorensen, Visiting Fellow, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

"This is a make or break budget for the Abbott government coming as it does midway in the electoral term and having consistently trailed Labor on the two party preferred. A well-received budget may provide the impetus for an early election. As regards strategy, it remains to be seen how far the government can push the deficit issue as a pretext in pursuit of its ideological longer-term goal of permanently shrinking the state."

ECONOMICS AND TAX

Professor Quentin Grafton, Environmental and resource economics, Crawford School of Public Policy

"The key economic issues in terms of future economic prosperity are participation rates and productivity. A successful budget should make meaningful steps, to the extent it is possible in budget and forward estimates, to promote greater labour force participation and a productivity growth."

Professor Warwick McKibbin, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy

"This is a critical time in the development of policy for Australia's future and the budget is a key part of that process."

Dr Andrew Hughes, Research School of Management

"This budget represents one of the last few remaining chances Tony Abbott has to sell not just his economic credentials but also his leadership. If indeed this budget is the sweetener before an early election then there will need to be rewards for the middle that Abbott needs to win the next election and solidify his leadership. If not, then expect talk of a change to resume.

"The budget is sadly becoming the most stakeholder influenced piece of legislation in Australian politics but the question is whether or not this short term political gain should come at the cost of long term prosperity. Where oh where is the visionary leader who could sell budget pain as being necessary for long term gain that would benefit the nation as a whole".

WELFARE

Professor Peter Whiteford, Social Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy

"Which households win and which lose from the Budget and does it overcome the widespread perception of unfairness that followed the 2014 Budget?"

CLIMATE CHANGE

Dr Will Grant, Centre for the Public Awareness of Science

"The Abbott government hasn't really been a friend to science so far."

HEALTH AND MEDICINE

Professor Archie Clements, Research School of Population Health

"The government needs to clearly state that public health research is a national priority - health and medical research funding (including the medical research future fund) needs to explicitly include public health research, because ultimately public health research ensures that health services run more efficiently and that better health outcomes are achieved from the national investment in health care. Through public health research, the taxpayer's dollar will buy the best outcomes for national health and wellbeing."

Dr Liz Hanna, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health

"Budgets address current issues, but they must not lose sight of their long term impacts. Disproportionately attacking the poor, systematically widens the gap between the haves and have-nots and condemns them to years, and possibly decades of disadvantage through lifelong and intergenerational ramifications. It is bad economics to cost shift today's budgetary pressures into long term social costs, and lost productivity.

"Australians urge the government to allocate significant funding levels to build Australia's resilience to climate change, to serious efforts to mitigate, and earmark substantial funds to assist developing countries adapt to the erratic climate that our high emission lifestyles are causing."

Professor Hal Kendig, Centre for Research on Ageing, Health & Wellbeing

"The pension initiatives in the budget mark an important move towards the centre of politics which will see tighter means testing for those who can pay and a continuing cost of living increase for those on relatively lower resources."

DEFENCE, FOREIGN POLICY

Professor Rory Medcalf, Head of College, National Security College, Crawford School of Public Policy.

"It will be important to see the Government holding its ground in terms of its commitment to move towards Defence spending at two per cent of GDP, as well as substantially funding increased efforts by the national security community to respond to emerging challenges around terrorism and radicalisation."