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Economic competence is the centrepiece of this election, as it has been in most others. The major parties and the Greens are doing everything they can to emphasise their perceived strengths in economic competence and minimise any possible weaknesses, while exploiting the flaws of their opponents.
Ideally, in the name of democracy and all that, it would be preferable if all contenders put their finely-detailed policy offerings forward for costing by Treasury and Finance so that voters could examine the costings and determine which party is offering the best deal. In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Office was established to help parties prepare their policies for costing before they’re submitted to Treasury and Finance under the Charter of Budget Honesty during a federal election campaign.
Each combatant knows that policy costings are their achilles heels in this election. Hence the rush by the Greens (labelled economic vandals by some) to get their policies in to Treasury and Finance for costing and thereby take the high moral ground.
Coalition won’t release costings until last week of campaign; Greens provide costing with each policy. Bloody fringe-dwellers!
— Andrew Bartlett (@AndrewBartlett) August 17, 2013
They’ve been followed less promptly by Labor, who will have been hamstrung by the government’s caretaker requirements from getting new Rudd policies costed in-house before submission to the Treasury and Finance boffins.
However, there appears to be a bit of jaw-clenching and teeth-grinding going on in response to the Federal Opposition’s refusal to release its policy costings until what seems likely to be the last week of the campaign.
The delay is due partly to the process established under the Charter of Budget Honesty. For a policy to be costed by Treasury/Finance it must be provided to the Prime Minister who then requests the departments to do so.
No Opposition is going to give unannounced policies to the PM before releasing them to the public, thereby giving the other side an opportunity to prepare a response in advance. Additionally, this Opposition does not particularly trust the departments in question.
Finally, the drip-feed release of policies during the election campaign and the holding-off of costings until the very last minute is a tactic that has been used by Oppositions of either party for all the federal elections that have taken place since the turn of the century (see table below).
Yes, it is a harm-minimisation strategy. Yes, it is a deliberate manoeuvre to avoid scrutiny. But neither of the main parties, or their leaders, are in a position to criticise the other side for doing it.
|2010 Opposition Leader: Tony Abbott (Lib)||Coalition released its ‘independently’ conducted costings (subsequently found to be considerably dodgy) 2 days before the election|
|2007 Opposition Leader: Kevin Rudd (ALP)||Submitted 32 policies before the Treasury deadline for costing. Released another 132 after the deadline with 104 policies submitted for costing in the last 3 working days before the election|
|2004 Opposition Leader: Mark Latham (ALP)||Submitted the bulk of policies for costing 19 days before election day but left big ticket item Medicare Gold until the last minute, hoping to avoid headlines like this with the costing released 1 day before the election|
|2001 Opposition Leader: Kim Beazley (ALP)||Still submitting policies for costing 2 working days before the election, although all had previously been “verified and costed” by Access Economics|
|1998 Opposition Leader: Kim Beazley (ALP)||No information readily available|
|1996 Opposition Leader: John Howard (Lib)||No information readily available|
|1993 Opposition Leader: John Hewson (Lib)||Fully costed policy manifesto Fightback! launched on 21 Nov 1992, 16 weeks before the federal election|