Finally, there was some good economic news to come from the federal government today. The budget deficit for the 2016-17 financial year will now be $33.2 billion down from the $37.6 billion projected in the May budget.
However, a budget surplus of $7.4 billion is still not projected until 2020-21. But after years of governments of both sides announcing after the budget that the deficit had blown out further than anticipated (most notably Labor’s failed promise to reach a surplus by 2012-13), today’s news was welcome.
Treasurer Scott Morrison at the press conference announcing the reduced deficit also outlined how the government had achieved this. This was through lower spending on social services, including employment services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
But what stuck out in the figures was the lower than expected spending on border control. More specifically lower onshore compliance and detention numbers. It is now over three years since the last unauthorised boat arrival. It was probably fitting that Scott Morrison who as Immigration Minister was the man who stopped the boats is able to see the benefits of it as Treasurer.
This reduction in spending on border control is in contrast to what the left claims that our border protection policies are bad for the budget. Last year Fairfax Economics Editor Peter Martin claimed that it was not only was the policy of mandatory dentition immoral but was economically unsound.
Of course, in that article he only criticised the Turnbull Government which only had to spend the high amounts of money on dentition because of the previous Labor government opening up our borders, these facts are conveniently omitted from the article. But the budget figures today speak for themselves, tough border control is not just about national security, it makes economic sense.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann who was also present at the press conference today said that Labor’s economic policies would lead to “a worse budget outcome for Australia”. Labor certainly is still weak on border protection as demonstrated by their opposition to the government’s recent announcement that they were cutting off income and housing support to asylum seekers who had parked themselves in Australia while obtaining medical treatment.
There is no doubt that Bill Shorten could not stand up to the party’s left when it comes to border control, and under his leadership the boats would return. You could certainly add Labor’s border protection policies as leading to a worse budget outcome. Border control is also an economic issue, and another area for which Labor fails.