Budget 2014: Broken promises bring echoes of past

Front-page attack: The Illawarra Mercury didn't pull any punches in 1979.

Front-page attack: The Illawarra Mercury didn't pull any punches in 1979.

As the federal budget delivered a tax shake-up and extra health costs on Tuesday, Illawarra residents could be forgiven for thinking they'd been transported back in time.

The Abbott government's first budget - aiming to reduce debt and bring the country's finances back to surplus - was eerily similar to some of the first Fraser/Howard budgets in the late 1970s, one of which prompted the Illawarra Mercury to scream "Lies, Lies, Lies" on its front page.

"Tax levy stays, health aid goes", the paper proclaimed in May 1979, as then treasurer John Howard was called out for breaking promises to end a short-term tax levy.

Mr Howard said there was no way he could keep his word and "retain budgetary responsibility".

This year's budget is similarly focused on extra taxes - such as the deficit levy, GP co-payment and reinstated fuel excise - and rising health costs. It also appears to break a number of promises by Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The night before the election, he said there would be no cuts to education, health, the ABC or SBS, and no changes to the pension.

Mr Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey have rationalised their broken promises by pointing to a "budget emergency" and saying the need to achieve a surplus outweighed other pre-election statements.

But Cunningham MP Sharon Bird said the Coalition's change of heart could pose a problem for the government's image, after Mr Abbott focused strongly on former prime minister Julia Gillard's broken promise not to introduce a carbon tax.

"Tony Abbott made it an absolute article of faith that what you say before the election, you do after it," Ms Bird said. "I think people are quite rightly going to feel that he's failed his own test."


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