HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 2 MARCH 2020
According to its latest annual report, outcome 1 of the Australian Treasury is ‘to improve the wellbeing of the Australian people’. Treasury has included 'wellbeing' in its mission statement since John Howard's era. As the Shadow Treasurer has noted, measuring wellbeing is now an accepted part of how many countries do their budgets, taking account of indicators such as child poverty or mental health.
As we teach our students in first-year economics, economics isn't about maximising money, it's about maximising wellbeing.
But instead, the Treasurer has decided to attack Treasury's wellbeing approach. On the way through, he's managed to offend New Zealanders, he's offended the millions of Australians who practice meditation, and he's offended the Hindu-Australian community, with the Hindu Council of Australia describing his comments as 'brazen, racist and Hindu-phobic'. New South Wales Liberal Party member Dhanya Mani said the Treasurer 'turned a key part of my identity into a racist punchline'.
Here's the bizarre thing. Since 2013, growth has slowed, wages growth is the worst on record, and household spending is at the slowest pace since the global financial crisis. The Liberals' promise of surpluses every year has turned into six deficits. So, you would think the Treasurer would be happy to add alternative metrics. It just goes to show that if the Liberals have a choice between policy and point-scoring they'll choose point-scoring every time.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.