Tonight was never going to be easy for Joe Hockey. He’s been spruiking a dull budget but commentators have called it make or break.
He’s been the called the Phantom Treasurer while Social Services Minister Scott Morrison has taken centre stage.
While Scott has been out and about trying to reconcile with a disbelieving public, Joe has had the task of reconciling the disobedient books.
Hockey also finds himself wedged between the soaring rhetoric about debt and deficit disasters, economy trashing carbon and mining taxes, “fair dinkum” paid parental leave schemes from his days in opposition, and a 2014 Budget that was condemned far and wide as little more than a ledger documenting the government’s broken promises.
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On paid parental leave…
In 2013 working “women of calibre” could look forward to a generous package of “workplace entitlements” that would see mothers receive a replacement wage while they were on maternity leave. This would help Australia reel in other OECD economies, which the Coalition said were streaking ahead thanks, in part, to better engaged working mothers.
In 2014, the budget, which was supposed to be in surplus, was not.
In turn the “fair dinkum”, signature” PPL scheme went by the wayside. Tony Abbott as recently as today told Question Time today the fair dinkum policy would have to wait until Australia could afford it.
In the mean time, Morrison and Hockey announced a new approach.
Morrison announced more funding for childcare to help ease the cost burden (but only if the Senate agreed to slash Family Tax benefits). Mr Hockey declared on Sunday that double-dipping stay-at-home women of calibre had had it too good too long by receiving both government and employer-based leaver entitlement.
Morrison said his package would “help parents who want to work or work more anyway".
“No changes to the pension”, the Prime Minister declared as he was preparing to stroll into government in 2013.
“We promised at the last election not to change pensions in this term of government and we won't,” Mr Hockey told Parliament in his debut Budget speech last year.
Now is the time for all Australians to get out there and have a go #Budget2015
— Joe Hockey (@JoeHockey) May 12, 2015
A few seconds later he announced changes to pension indexation, alienated the Senate and enraged a not insignificant chunk of the voting public.
In 2015, Scott Morrison has announced a new look approach to not changing the pension, promising to increase payments to the nation’s poorest seniors while taking it away in its entirety from about 80,000 pension
On interest rates…
In June 2013, Mr Hockey told ABC’s Leigh Sales a 2.5% interest rate was a sign of a struggling economy.
“They're not cutting interest rates because the economy is doing well. Interest rates are being cut to 50 year lows because the economy is struggling,” he said.
This month rates were cut to 2 per cent and Mr Hockey urged investors to do what they do best and take advantage of this “fertiliser” brought about by an economy bursting with “green shoots”.
On industry assistance…
Fresh from balling Adam Smith’s invisible hand into a fist and belting the automotive industry squarelu on the chin, Mr Hockey used his 2014 budget speech to declare an end to corporate welfare.
“Businesses should stand or fall on their ability to produce the goods and services that people actually want,” he told the nation.
Rather than introducing new taxes on you, we simply want people or companies who are avoiding their tax to pay their fair share #Budget2015
— Joe Hockey (@JoeHockey) May 12, 2015
In 2015, small business lifters are expecting a 1.5% tax cut, the GST will be applied to newly arrived internet streaming media services like Netflix and leaning multi-national corporations are in the firing line for a crackdown on tax avoidance - measures that some argued were critically lacking in last year's budget.
In 2013 there were to be no changes to health.
By 2014, there was to be a GP-copayment to fund medical research into everything from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease, easing the burden on future generations because all of those costly ailments would surely be cured by good old fashioned Aussie ingenuity.
“It may be an Australian who discovers better treatments and even cures for dementia, Alzheimer's, heart disease or cancer,” Mr Hockey said in his 2014 budget speech.
“If we start investing now, this new and historic commitment in medical research may well save your life, or that of your parents, or your child.”
As the 2015 Budget looms, so far there is no Medical Research Future Fund and the CSIRO has ceased some of its work on cancer and Alzheimer’s disease following last year’s cuts.
Balancing the budget will be a small task compared to the task of balancing a crucial policy document against years of critical politics.