Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's Canberra, Not Kansas

This evening the new government of Australia presented its first budget to the Parliament and people of the country. I spent the last few hours watching the fireworks; here's a couple striking things:

Much as in our own country, the national budget embodies the promises and values of the party in power. But in Australia, it's the treasurer of the government, rather than the party leader, who "delivers the budget". For the 35 minutes during which Treasurer Wayne Swan spoke to the gathered Parliament tonight, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd sat with his party, nodding and "hear-hearing".

Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan, keeping it together.

What's more, the material presented does not constitute budget proposals, but realities. The party in power by definition runs the legislature (the Prime Minister is not a separately elected official like the President, but the leader of the party in control of the lower house of the legislature). Thus, their budgets announcements have more teeth to them, and maybe also drama. Announced changes will be made, even in the next few months.

The treasurer is a funny guy to watch: not flashy, or even charismatic. A little intense and ill at ease, actually. Imagine an accountant giving the State of the Union. Then imagine that accountant is your father-in-law.

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