Surplus swansong leaves Labor in stormy waters

Throw out the bad news before Christmas. Hope that nobody notices. Who cares about a surplus anyway?

The economists have been saying it doesn’t matter, indeed that we would have been better off if the government had not locked itself into it.

But Wayne Swan’s ditching of the promise that the government first made in 2010 – in the budget when Kevin Rudd was still prime minister and the government expected to reap lots of loot from a robust mining tax – is a difficult and humiliating backflip.

It is a broken promise of the first order. True, in its October budget update and ever since, the government has put some qualification around its pledge. The $1.1 billion surplus was so thin there was always the risk it could not be produced.

A recent survey of economists found hardly any thought it would be delivered and of the rest, the expectation was for a deficit of $5 billion to $20 billion – still a hefty turnaround from last financial year’s deficit of nearly $44 billion.

Despite some recent softening-up for a possible change, the surplus promise is so long-standing and so often reiterated over the years that the impact of having to walk away from it is politically huge.

The opposition can crow. It has said all along that the government would never deliver a surplus and, if Labor loses the election, that (probably) will be true.

Swan cracked hardy. ”If the worst thing that people say is we got the economics right again but fell short on the politics, well I just say, so be it”, he said. He knows things don’t work like that. This is not an economic problem for the government – it is a political one. It goes to trust and credibility. Trust, or lack of it, is Gillard’s underlying vulnerability – notably, when it comes to policy, since she broke her word on the carbon tax.

There are so many quotes to throw back at the government. On December 7 Gillard said: ”Our last economic update had us at trend growth and that’s why the last economic update had us with a surplus. We are still determined to deliver the surplus.”

Leader of the House Anthony Albanese is looking particularly red-faced. On Sky on Sunday he was asked: ”If you had to walk through a door and your life depended on it, is the government going to deliver a surplus or is it going to fall into a small deficit in May?” He was unequivocal: ”Well, the government’s going to deliver a surplus. That’s our policy. That’s what we’ve been working towards.”

The broken promise on a surplus is rather different in nature from the ”no carbon tax” one – circumstances have changed – but they can easily be bundled together.

Tony Abbott was quick to link them: ”You just can’t trust this government to manage the economy. You just can’t trust this government to tell the truth.”

At his news conference, Swan was awkwardly reminded that in 2008 he had talked about a ”temporary” deficit, and there had been a deficit ever since. For good reasons, certainly, but words and pledges come back to haunt politicians.

Swan insists the government is doing fine in managing the economy. He says spending restraint will continue. It’s just that it would be counterproductive, threatening jobs, to try to fill what has become – on the latest figures released on Thursday – an even larger gaping revenue hole. ”In just four months, we’ve already seen the full hit to revenue that we were expecting for the whole year,” Swan said.

It is interesting the government decided to cut its losses now, rather than wait for more figures in the new year. Stephen Koukoulas, of Market Economics, a former economic adviser to Gillard, looking at the latest numbers before Swan’s announcement, judged that it remained ”a close-run thing whether the budget will be in small surplus or small deficit for 2012-13”. (Swan’s phrasing was equivocal – he said it was ”unlikely” there will be a surplus.)

If the government had decided to hang on and hope, it would have had to work like fury over Christmas to make savage cuts. It was running out of time to achieve results quickly enough. The nightmare scenario would have been for it to announce a round of unpopular savings, only to later find it had to admit it still couldn’t achieve a surplus.

One problem Swan will have is containing expectations that the way is now open for more spending. Without the discipline of the surplus target, all sorts of groups will be making demands. There will be pressure from the welfare lobby to give those on the dole a better deal, from the foreign aid lobby to restore the money diverted this week to spending on asylum seekers. Swan is adamant the government remains tough on the expenditure side.

But, of course, there will be big spending promises in the May budget, coming not long before the election. The government has said it will give firm commitments to the billions of dollars needed for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski school funding. Swan insists these will be financed by changing priorities – in other words, there will be savings.

Every promise broken makes people more suspicious of future promises. When the government outlines the funding for the NDIS and Gonski, critics will question whether these promises will be delivered.

Both sides of politics know the debate over who will be the more responsible economic manager is vital, and this was reinforced by this week’sAge-Nielsen poll. Asked to choose the issue most important in how they would vote, 35 per cent selected the economy. There was quite a partisan difference; the economy was chosen by 27 per cent of Labor voters and 51 per cent of Coalition supporters. But in an election where the Labor government would survive only if it won seats in net terms, it must try to attract Coalition voters on their core issue.

”The economy” is significantly higher in people’s priorities than just before the 2007 election, when 25 per cent named it as their top issue. The current Nielsen poll did show a decline in those believing a 2012-13 surplus should be a high priority, falling from 53 per cent to a still high 49 per cent. Forty-five per cent said it was a low priority.

In moving to reposition itself from promising a surplus to convincing people that another deficit is the only responsible course, the government will be relying heavily on the weight of the experts who are saying this is the right thing to do.

The advocacy from the economists is something that the opposition will have to grapple with. At the moment Abbott is not changing his position that a Coalition government would deliver surpluses across its first-term budgets. But that is a holding position, based on the latest budget figures, and Abbott is calling on the government to release revised numbers ASAP.

The Coalition position will have to be driven by the new figures. It would be foolish to lock itself in if the numbers indicate an uncertain future. It too needs to present election promises, and does not want to have such a slash-and-burn approach that voters are frightened away.

For the Coalition, Thursday was all upside, surfing on the government’s problems. But with the budget goal posts shifted and an election fast approaching, a lot of attention will inevitably be on the opposition. It has to remember that while the politics are playing for it on this issue, it would quickly become vulnerable if it appeared to be getting the economics wrong.

Sudanese student begins medical career at C.Y. O’Connor Institute

GARANGKutin Duop recently completed his Certificate IV in preparation for entry intoEnrolled Nursing online and graduated from C Y O’Connor Institute this month.

MrDuop was born in Sudan and he and his family fled the country due to the civilwar.

MrDuop was born while his family were fleeing Sudan to live in Kenya.

Helived for 10 years in a refugee camp on the Sudanese-Kenyan border in a housewith one big room where 15 people slept on a dirt floor.

Duringhis stay at the camp, Mr Duop was fortunate to have access to medical help,water from a well and access to primary education.

Foodwas provided by aid agencies and was, at times, in short supply.

Sometimesthey would have only one meal a day, which consisted of rice or maize andrarely meat.

MrDuop migrated to Western Australia in 2006 and his initial impression ofAustralia was that it had lots of bright lights and he felt safe.

Oncehis family had settled in, he enrolled in secondary schooling at South CoastBaptist College in Waikiki.

Whilecompleting his secondary schooling, he realised he wanted to become a doctorand one day return to Sudan to help his community.

Forthis reason, he decided to commence his journey by enrolling in a CertificateIV in Preparation for entry into Enrolled Nursing at C Y O’Connor Institute.

MrDuop never met his institute lecturer, Shona Andrews, face-to-face until hegraduated from the course, although he exchanged regular emails with Ms Andrewsas part of his learning experience.

Hevisited the Northam campus of the Institute for a special award ceremony at theinvitation of the managing director, John Scott, who became aware of theexceptional circumstances in which Mr Duop had grown up and his determinationto succeed as a doctor.

MrDuop was presented with a framed certificate and a medical literature book toassist with his career in the medical profession.

Hehas applied for entry into the biomedical sciences program at MurdochUniversity, using his Certificate IV as a pathway qualification.

“Ihave every confidence that Garang will succeed in his lifelong ambition tobecome a doctor,” Mr Scott said.

C Y O’Connor Institute managing director John Scott, left, congratulates Sudanese student Kutin Duop, second left, on his achievement. With them are a friend of Mr Duop and C Y O’Connor Institute chairwoman Eileen O’Connell.

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Boxing Day to provide feast for keen punters

Dawson Park will be full of activity over the holiday period. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE Castlereagh Grey will be out to repeat his impressive debut win when he competes at Wellington on Boxing Day. Photo: JANIAN McMILLAN (www.racingphotography苏州美睫培训.au)

THE gap between the close of TAB trade on Christmas Eve and the reopening on Boxing Day is the largest in the entire year, with nothing to bet on for a whole 38 hours or so.

But punters in the central west get a chance to make up for it on Boxing Day, with gallops, greyhounds and harness racing all on the menu.

Quite simply, if you like the racers, chasers or pacers you will be catered for.

Wellington’s annual non-TAB gallop meeting will kick off proceedings, with the first of five events scheduled to leave the gates at 2.15pm.

A little more than an hour later greyhound action will kick off at Dawson Park with a 10-race program starting at 3.38pm.

If that isn’t enough, when the greyhounds are done you can head down to the Dubbo Showground for a five-race program of harness racing, with the first set down for 7.45pm and the last for 10.15pm.

Boxing Day isn’t the only big day for racing in the region, with plenty of greyhound and galloping action over the whole holiday period.

Dubbo Greyhound Racing Club will host meetings on December 30, January 3, January 10 and January 16 while a plethora of race meetings.

Macquarie Picnics will be held at Trangie on December 29, Warren will host a TAB meeting the following day before Gilgandra’s two-day carnival starts on New Year’s Day.

The club will then hold its cup meeting on January 6, with the feature event carrying $27,000 in prize money.

With that in mind, let’s try to find a few winners.

At Wellington on Boxing Day the Bruce Parker-trained Castlereagh Grey will be hard to beat based on its debut win at Warren by more than five lengths.

It goes around in the Jarrod Wykes Electrical Class 1 Handicap (1100m).

At Dubbo dogs, Miss Charlyn should be hard to beat from box six in the Elite State @ Stud Stakes (318m) while later in the meeting Vicki Knows Best gets her chance to add a second win the her resume in the Caretakers Appreciation Stakes (318m).

Finally at the showground, look for the Amanda O’Neill-trained Rattlen Ranji to be hard to beat in the opening race while Sunofbula gets his chance in the Oamps Dubbo Pace (2120m).

Despite being a veteran, he is rated an R12 C8 pacer while the next best, Karinya Mat, is rated an R3 C3. Nathan Carroll takes the drive on Sunofbula, which is trained by his father Mick Carroll.

Central West connections will be eyeing off some of the $250,000 prize money on offer in the Inglis Nursery Stakes (1000m) at Warwick Farm today.

Wellington-based Bell River Thoroughbreds, operated by Andrew Ferguson, will have first-starter Sunshine Royale in the event while Mudgee trainer Jeff Brasch will saddle up Nuclear Snip, to be ridden by Greg Ryan.

Both horses go into the race with barrier trial wins under their belts, with Nuclear Snip scoring over 800m at Narromine and Sunshine Royale over 805m at Warwick Farm.

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Ladies’ Bowls

Thursday 13th : The ladies played for vouchers sponsored by West End Beauty,Dempster Hair & Beauty and Miarhetts.Winner was M. Rance, runner-up M Smart, 3rd J Graham.

Friday 7th: 15 players for Scroungers. Bluey Klinberg and Eric Donaldson tiedwith 42 points followed by Bill Gurney with 39points..

Tues 11th: South Coast Food Services Scroungershad their Christmas dinner with 28 players. Lyn Waldock won with Syd Lapworth runner up. All players sat down to a fantastic Christmasdinner prepared by Marg and Alan Boyle, Bev Hourn, Billie Denison, Shirley Roeand Barb Deslanders. These ladiesgave up their bowls to work in the kitchen. Well done.

Wed 12th: 41 players for Wednesday Scroungerswith a few new faces coming to the fore.10 players won all games. BGurney plus 12 was outright winner, J Craig plus 11, J Folvig and P Eardleyplus 10, W Rodgers, D Fiegert plus 9, E Donaldson plus 8, M Rand plus 6, PBirch and R Piercey plus 5.

Fri 14th: A Small field with R Major once againthe winner with 43, Runner up N Brown on 40.

Sat 15th Pennants: Both Esperance ladies and men travelled to Scaddan for thisgame and Scaddan are hard to beat on their home ground and once again were winners. Skipper J Paterson 31 defeated M Rance14. A tight game with both skipshaving to come up with some brilliant shots. Especially the last shot of the game delivered by Judy whichgave the Scaddan ladies the aggregate by one shot. Skipper June Mincham was in control of their games with somegreat draw bowls. Shirlene Ellisonwas continually having to attack with her bowls. Great to watch.

The West Beach men were working hard to hold Scaddan atbay. Skipper J Treleven defeated TEllison 23-19. Skips R Majordefeated P Rule 25-22. Skip FStone defeated B Rodgers 20-18 and P Lewis defeated L Spencer. A lot of tactics were tried to upsetthe home teams with the Rule and Rodgers game veryclose. In a crucial game Lomax andStone put in 2 great bowls to seal the game for Scaddan. Scaddan winning the day and the aggregate

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Airport upgrade now open

“WHILE buildings don’tdefine community, they are a reflection of the community,” Shire of Esperancepresident Mal Heasman said at the official opening of the Esperance Airport onFriday.

Mr Heasman unveiled aplaque which to commemorate the $2.5 million upgrade of the Esperance terminal,a project which has been underway since September 2011.

The Regional AirportsDevelopment Scheme through the Royalties for Regions program paid $1.126million, while the government put in a contribution of $320,000 for theterminal extensions.

Construction began inApril this year, with the full terminal opening on October 28.

Internally, more spacehas been made available for the screening point, the sterile lounge and thecheck baggage screening equipment, together with more space for the baggagearrival carousel.

Member for Eyre, DrGraham Jacobs said the funding promoted the development of a facility that is“truly good and great” for the town.

“As the state memberthere are still some issues we need to work through in improving schedules anddeveloping airfares at affordable prices,” he said.

“For us, that is a majorchallenge, but we need to achieve that to improve the commercial components ofEsperance and the people who visit.”

Mr Heasman said ifairfares were better priced, Skywest would have bigger load factors.

“But Skywest argue theother side: The load factor isn’t high enough to justify the reduced prices,”he said.

Mr Heasman said he feltit would be good to have a three-month trial whereby the prices were reduced tosee the impact on load factors and said he would like to approach Skywest onthese terms.

“We should try toencourage it over a tourist period where there is some inducement to see if alower airfare regime would increase the load substantially,” he said.

SHIRE of Esperance president Mal Heasman, Member for Mining and Pastoral Wendy Duncan and Member for Eyre Dr Graham Jacobs at the official opening of the Esperance Airport on Friday.

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