Actually, Mr Shepherd, Australians Have Every Right To Complain About The Budget

Picture: Getty/Darren Carroll

The grand disconnect continues with Tony Shepherd, head of the Government’s Commission of Audit (CoA), weighing into the budget debate overnight.

The SMH reports that Shepherd has lashed out at “narrow sectional interests” and a hostile community response to the budget.

Shepherd said the CoA had “agonised” over how to spread the burden of budgetary repair and that all sectors must sacrifice.

“I think it’s a sad reflection on the modern Australian attitude that they can’t see that all areas have to make a contribution and they look at it as a narrow, sectional issue,” he said.

“People will protect their sectional interest, that’s understandable, but I wish people could also stand back, look at the overall picture of the Commonwealth budget and rather than say ‘don’t touch me’, say ‘what can be our contribution to a sustainable surplus?'”

The problem for Shepherd and the Government’s sell-job to the public is that the budget – and particularly, it’s raft of broken promises – was such an unexpected shock that it is as incumbent on the Government to make the case as to why the changes are necessary as it is for the public to recognise a greater imperative than their own personal impact.

As a behavioural Finance and Economics guy, it is people and the impact of their decsions that I focus on when looking at the economy. Economics would be a boring bunch of equations otherwise, and it is here where Shepherd and the Government are missing the mark.

The following tweet by Queensland LNP backbencher George Christensen highlights the disconnect:

The SMH reports that he followed up with a tweet saying “Try getting any serious form of welfare in Thailand or other SE Asian nations.”

The unfortunate timing of this one given the coup overnight might explain why it is no longer on his Twitter stream.

The point however, from a behavioural point of view, is that the Government clearly does not understand the electorate and what drives it.

Perhaps they have forgotten that the debt burden carried by Australians is back near record highs.

Perhaps this is why Australians weren’t able to recognise how well the nation did during the GFC.

Perhaps it is also why they worry about job losses, even though 106,000 jobs have been created in the past four months.

So perhaps it is understandable that whatever the merits of the longer term structural changes the Government is making to the budget to improve Australia’s long term fiscal position, Messrs Hockey and co need to also understand that with a high debt burden, worries about employment and two governments in a row that have broken promises and their compact with the community, that Australians are worried about their own position.

If the Government really believes in this budget as the way forward for Australia, it needs to sell it to business and the community, not lecture them.

Otherwise the recovery in consumer sentiment I expect in the coming months may never happen.

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