09/05/2006 - 22:00

My bet’s on another Budget brouhaha

09/05/2006 - 22:00


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Is it just me, or has the budget lost relevance these days? For months we’ve been primed by reports of surpluses, possible tax cuts and how families will be looked after.

My bet’s on another Budget brouhaha

Is it just me, or has the budget lost relevance these days?

For months we’ve been primed by reports of surpluses, possible tax cuts and how families will be looked after.

Is so much speculation and media space worth the effort and energy?

In the end, both at state and federal level, budgets appear to be little more than an annual stage for various treasurers who smirk at their good fortune and hand over some trinkets to a few minor winners.

There are few surprises and, with debt constraints and AAA ratings to watch, little room for significant manoeuvring.

It all seems like a lifetime ago, when we used to wait with bated breath for the budget announcement.

In those days it was the treasurer’s finest hour, as favours were dispensed and retribution wreaked.

Small business would quake at the prospect of new or increased indirect duties, retailers would worry about tax rises hitting the public purse and property owners would prepare for the worst.

Then a lock-up for news reporters was vital because the treasurer’s speech had the capacity to move markets.

These days it seems like a sham.

Past the leaks, the overall transparency and the lack of politically palatable options, there is very little to get excited about.

I hope I don’t have to eat my words on this one.

Corporate dirt to be dug at Beaconsfield

I think we were all relieved to see those two blokes finally make it out of the Beaconsfield gold mine in Tasmania.

It was a long wait, though for those of us watching at a distance it would have been surprising if tragedy had revisited the mine.

Once there was communication it seemed inevitable the pair would emerge.

Perhaps that is our faith in the techniques of modern industry?

With the men now rescued and another buried, I think the time for recriminations will arrive pretty soon.

Union heavyweight Bill Shorten received massive exposure over this and I am sure both the labour movement and Labor party will be seeking to further exploit this unfortunate incident for political purposes.

The key target has already been named in relation to this accident – the federal government’s IR legislation.

There will also be an increased focus on the responsibility of those backing the mine, which I understand has been making money hand over fist despite having external administrators.

The money factory at Macquarie Bank may find itself being probed further in relation to this incident as, from what I understand, they were the main beneficiaries of the production.

I expect significant analysis of what was guiding the mine management and its choice of techniques, which was reportedly behind the minor earthquake that caused the rockfall inside the mine.

Just how much these unusual corporate and geological events can be compared to mining in Western Australia is yet to be fully analysed, though I doubt we’ll see too many close comparisons.

Much of this next wave of analysis will depend on the demeanour of the two rescued miners themselves.

One has already indicated he wanted to get out of the job prior to the accident because of his concerns about safety.

Others might argue the miners knew the risks but their confidence in the mine management and just how much they feel they owe them will be important considerations in the mind games that could follow.

Doubtless, the feelings of the townspeople will have a significant impact on them as well.

Are the people of Beaconsfield grateful for having a mine, or bitter at the fact that a human tragedy has followed corporate tragedy.

Some of the residents lost money in the corporate failure, which ultimately provided a windfall for Macquarie.

I know I use this term far too frequently, but this will be a fascinating process to watch.

I am sure it has been playing out behind the scenes for the past fortnight, as all parties prepared themselves for the end of the first chapter, holding fire until the rescue job was completed.


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