Budget hocus pocus: The Treasurer could sure use some Harry Houdini

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No magic, just flogging a dead horse (Art by @TwoEyeHead)

Budgets are boring! But what if Scott Morrison found a bring a little magic into next week's events? Jim Pembroke envisions what a ScoMo floorshow might look like.

Entertaining, compelling, enchanting — none of these descriptors are likely to appear before the words, Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison.

In fact, the Treasurer's Budget speech is destined to be so dull — depressing even, that most people won't watch it. They'll barely bring themselves to tune into the jolly, "what's in the budget for you" follow up the next day on television.

But it doesn't have to be like this. The basic elements of an engaging and intriguing presentation are all there. The Budget has mystery, illusion and takes us on a voyage into the realms of the unbelievable. What if the Treasurer found a way to enchant us with the mysticism of it all — bring a little magic into our lives?

It would go something like this...

The podium, clustered with microphones, sits in lonely splendour at the centre of the stage. An Australian flag hangs limply in the background. The press corp shuffle uncomfortably on their chairs waiting for the Treasurer Scott Morrison to enter and deliver his Budget speech. For many of the journos this has been a hectic day, locked up with edgy Budget documents — nasty papercuts and hasty band-aids. They already know what the Treasurer is going to say: another boring speech for the cameras.

Just as older scribes are nodding off, two workers inexplicably scurry on to the stage and remove the lectern, microphones and attachments. The audience barely has time to process this before the room is plunged into darkness. Gasps of concern, quickly turn to delight as multicoloured spotlights dance around the stage to a soaring fanfare of entrance music.

A voice booms over the top of AC/DC's Highway to Hell:

“Let's get ready to rumble!”

The announcer sustains the introduction, matching the rising crescendo of the headbanging classic.

He's been cajoling, coaxing and flim flamming in parliament all year. He's lobotomised us with his non-stop talking on Lateline.

He'll be confusing us with his sleight of hand for the rest of the week. 

Please welcome that egregious, economic expert — that tangential Treasurer of Australia. 

The scintillating S-c-o-M-o !

The last drawn out, ring master style.

The Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison "dad dances" onto the stage, fist pumping to the heavy metal music. He is greeted by stunned silence, apart from a lone staffer who applauds enthusiastically from the wings. ScoMo is wearing traditional magician's garb. He flourishes his black cape, top hat and white gloves.

What follows is a blur for the confused Fourth Estate as the Treasurer introduces his Budget written with magic markers and then performs a flurry of cheap tricks – pulling Australian values out of his hat, rabbits disappearing along with 457 visas and creating thin jobs out of thinner air.

Each new illusion is introduced and executed flawlessly.

Flourishing a chain saw, ScoMo announces:

“If you enjoy open heart surgery you'll love this next trick. I call it, The Welfare Cut.”

Followed by:

“Lo and behold… superannuation disappears and the housing bubble… is bigger!”

And then ScoMo waves his magic wand:

“Hey Presto, Abracadabra, Sim Salabim… bad debt is now good debt!”

Ahhh, miraculous! An amazed economist at the back of the room yells: 

"How'd you do that?"

And just when the gallery is getting a bit wary of the smoke and mirrors, ScoMo calls for a volunteer from the audience.

“Ladies and gentlemen, a big round of applause for the PAYE taxpayer coming up onto the stage.”

The Treasurer pats our wary citizen on the back:

'You haven't had a payrise for a long time, have you sir?”

The taxpayer's eyes widen in anticipation, but this soon turns to suspicion as ScoMo continues: 

“Please stand over here on the trapdoor. That's right, underneath the sandbag.”

The Treasurer hands him the Budget deficit:

Can you check and confirm that this money bag is empty, sir.

Before you reach in there, you aren't afraid of spiders or snakes, are you?

Now, I want you to make your mind completely blank... Wow, that was fast!

Do you have any welfare benefits? Abracadabra! Your benefits have vanished.

Don't worry, sir. Now reach into the bag.

Do you have a Centrelink debt? No?

You do now!

ScoMo tells the dazed volunteer to quickly empty his pockets and ushers him into a disappearing box — more a tiny house really.

ScoMo yells: “Expelliarmus!” and our hapless taxpayer is turned into a xenophobe and whisked to a social housing estate in Tamworth — prompting a smattering of applause from the rightwing media.

“Don't tell anyone how we did that,” the Treasurer winks.

The rest of the budget speech involves a $20 million welfare card trick, sawing a homeless man in half and handcuffing a school child to a life of debt and disadvantage.

All in all, it is a wholly memorable presentation. Everyone will tune-in to the highlights later. Of particular interest is the Treasurer's final trick, where he chains himself into a straight jacket and is suspended by his feet from a crane, above the freezing waters of Lake Burley Griffin — refusing to escape until the Senate passes his Budget bills.

“I'll be hanging from the giant flag pole at Parliament House!” he exclaims to an empty room.

“You've been a wonderful audience. Thank you and goodnight.”

Q. How do you tell the difference between a politician and a magician?

A. A magician might give your wallet back, after the show.

Read more from Jim Pembroke on his blog jimselbow.wordpress.com, or follow him on Twitter @Jim_Pembroke.

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