the cardinal sin of accounting … budget analysis by Barnaby

Barnaby is an accountant. He knows the difference between real and fudged, theatrical and actual.

Senator Barnaby Joyce


Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Water
Leader of the Nationals in the Senate

Please find below an opinion piece written by Senator Joyce which was published in The Canberra Times on 17 May 2013.

Budget bottom line? Theatricality trumps actuality

The Budget is defining for politicians. They preen and pose and the building fills up with tribal acolytes. But it is after all, theatre. It is not actual it is a budget.

Everyone has an opinion, and you can as well, as it is an amorphous interpretation that you can get as wildly wrong as you like without any ramifications to you personally.

Actuals, as opposed to budgets, they are real. CEOs, accountants, shareholders live and die on actuals. If you “fudge” as an accountant and the partner finds out, you are out. If you cannot get the account to reconcile, say so, stay back and get help, but do not fudge it as it is the cardinal sin of accounting.

Budgets are more wishful thinking, sometimes pure romance. So accountants – dour, colourless characters that we are – get joy out of actuals, but budgets are more the indolent afterthought.

Anyone can play budgets and many positions are possible with clairvoyants revelling in a financial Karma Sutra, but in actuals only one position is right.

Well by the time you read this, which I am writing on Tuesday night, the Budget will basically be an item of ridicule and all will be waiting for the election this time with a fear to match the frustration.

The forward face value of our debt is in excess of $370 billion and that is from a Government Treasury whose claim to fame in the past is that they are consistently and miserably wrong, underestimating the problem, leaving the Treasurer with the time to gloat over an undeliverable promise. The unethical issue of getting the forecast wrong is that the alleviating action is put off and massive debt hurts those who never caused the problem. How on earth do we pay this money back, what is for sale, whose job is safe?

On the big picture, the Baby Bonus is gone and we have no real idea what the National Disability Insurance Scheme is going to cost, nor what Gonski really means in detail as far as cost is concerned.

On things you probably may not hear, big business will be forced to go monthly on PAYG. This will move the cost down to suppliers who will be under the pump to pay sooner. If you want to get someone on a 457 visa, the application charge will now be more than double, at $900. Why?  No real reason for this apart from the fact they are running out of money.

There is confusion as to what on earth the message is, saving while spending in unnecessary areas and getting further into debt.  What is the big plan that can stand in the here and now without relying on heroic projections? The levy for NDIS is projected near $3 billion for a cost which some have estimated at near $20 billion a year. Our terms of trade will have to be on the optimistic side to say the least as commodity prices are currently weakening.

I have to admit New England got a few promises more than most electorates, making my job harder there, but the question is how does one deliver a promise in either opposition or more pertinently when we have no money. Promises should not be confused with delivery. This is a question that I do not believe sections of the media will delve into with much intent, preferring the colour of the announcement over the complexity of the delivery.

Complexity is hard to distil down to a line but a very good indicator always is the debt. For Canberra, as I have stated so many times, debt is the canary in the coal mine and Canberra should be more observant of this issue than any other city in Australia. Departments know the problems for them are directly correlated to the size of the debt for the incoming government. When the Greens, Labor and independents decided that prudence should be put aside, then with it goes stability and security for the city of Canberra.

The final analogy I would say about this budget is the overwhelming feeling in the building of irrelevance in the Government’s papers and following discussions. It was an anticlimax that happened in the corner without any of the gravitas or attention of previous budgets. Australia does finally get to the TV to switch off the politics; they have done that.

 Barnaby Joyce is the Nationals’ Senate Leader and the Opposition Spokesman for Regional Development, Local Government and Water.

UPDATE: Last month Wayne Swan said there had been a ‘sledgehammer to revenues in the budget’. Well the reality is…not so much.

The IPA’s Professor Sinclair Davidson went looking for that sledgehammer on the brilliant Catallaxy Files on Tuesday.

And in this 2 minute video is the IPA’s Dr Julie Novak telling you what you need to know about the budget.

UPDATE 2: This is unusual, when you have lost your own,it’s all over … last will and testament?

ALP figures don’t add up
Peter van Onselen, Contributing editor IT is high time that the government dropped the rhetoric about the Coalition having a “$70 billion black hole” in its funding commitments.
Budget was last will and testament
Graham Richardson THE PM would do better if she could admit what punters know

About Tom Harley

Amateur ecologist and horticulturalist and CEO of Kimberley Environmental Horticulture Inc. (Tom Harley)
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