Budget shows government means business

BACK in the early 2000s, when our nation was riding a major commodities boom, Federal Budget night was like Christmas for Australian families.

Mums and dads would be glued to the television as Treasurer Peter Costello announced just what tax cuts they would be entitled to over the next 12 months.

For average families, Budget night meant thousands of dollars and they were the people that kept John Howard in The Lodge for more than a decade.

It was a great time to be in government.

But those days are a distant memory and Budget night is a much more fraught affair today – for both the government and the public.

Where once the Budget night catch phrase was “sharing the wealth”, in recent years it’s been “budget repair” and, as Joe Hockey found in 2014, getting it wrong can have devastating political consequences.

So the stakes were high when Scott Morrison stood to deliver his Budget on Tuesday night – and he delivered a strong performance.

Along with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Morrison has crafted a Budget designed to reframe political conversations in this country between now and the next federal election in 2019.

It is finally a Budget that begins to reflect the current Liberal leadership’s political vision, with an emphasis on supporting small business and funding nation-building projects.

Businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million will receive a company tax cut and the $20,000 asset write-off has been extended for a second year.

Then there were the big-dollar announcements to get the country moving and to create jobs: $5.3 billion over 10 years for the Badgerys Creek airport; $8.4 billion to start building the Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail link; the opening of discussions with Victoria and NSW to buy back shares of the Snowy Hydro.

These are small ‘l’ liberal policies that Mr Turnbull’s supporters have been longing to see since he took over leadership of the Liberals, but they should not scare the more conservative factions in his party.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison will hope Tuesday night’s Budget proves to be a turning point for a government that has struggled in the polls since last year’s election.

The hard work is done for now; it’s time for them to begin the hard sell.