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The Morrison Government’s credibility deficit risks recession

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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced that the Federal Budget was "back in balance", but there is still a lot of work to do (Screenshot via YouTube)

While the Morrison Government pats itself on the back over Budget figures, we're still waiting for them to do something about fixing our economy, writes Tarric Brooker.

IN THE WAKE of the recent release of the Federal Government’s final figures for the 2018-19 financial year, there has been a great deal of discussion around the nation’s Budget deficit.

In spite of claims from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg that the Budget is back in balance, the figures actually showed a $690 million deficit, much to Frydenberg’s disappointment.

In fact, without the Morrison Government’s stealth cuts to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the deficit would have been closer to $5.3 billion.

Despite the paramount importance of the balance of the Federal Budget, there is actually another deficit that the Morrison Government faces that is actually far more important to their ability to govern — their growing credibility deficit.

Under normal political circumstances, politicians can get by with a relative lack of credibility with the electorate, as the general public largely goes about their business without giving politicians much thought. After all, it wasn’t claims of $100 roast dinners as a result of the carbon tax that ultimately ended Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership.

But in times of crisis or an economic downturn, the electorate looks to its government for leadership. This leadership can take on many forms, whether it’s a sense of genuine solidarity or providing a hopeful vision of the future to work towards.

This is where the Morrison Government falls completely flat.

Not only does the Prime Minister currently lack a vision for the future that is any way compatible with the values of the broader electorate, but the Morrison Government also remains a disinterested participant in addressing the challenges faced by everyday Australians.

More than that, as Australia’s economic fundamentals continue to deteriorate and evidence of economic downturn mounts, the Morrison Government refuses to acknowledge this basic reality. Instead, the Coalition continues to insist that the economy remains strong and that their superior economic management is doing its work.

In reality:

Yet despite this growing mountain of evidence, Josh Frydenberg continues to claim that the “fundamentals are strong”. The Coalition maintains that its much-talked-about $1,080 (in reality, $265) tax cuts are going to kickstart economic growth and put Australia back on the road to prosperity.

However, the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics is yet to register any boost to consumer spending, with many consumers actually planning to use their tax refund to pay down debts or save.

With the growing daylight between the Morrison Government’s economic narrative and the growing financial challenges faced by everyday Australians, the Coalition’s credibility continues to erode, seemingly by the day.

Given the prospect of a domestic or global recession is looming on the horizon, the Coalition may need every ounce of its credibility to convince the Australian people that there will be better days ahead.

During the Global Financial Crisis, the Rudd Government’s rapid response and respected standing with the electorate quickly inspired the confidence of households to defy the global downturn and continue on as normal.

If and when the Morrison Government is faced with a similar moment, it likely won’t have the same degree of respect or credibility that the Rudd Government used to avoid the worst of the GFC.

Instead, after months of being told that everything is fine and that the economy will somehow come good, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg will be viewed at best with scepticism and at worst like the boys who cried wolf.

Ultimately, unless the Morrison Government can begin to be truthful with the people about the challenges the electorate already knows is ahead — Australia faces the possibility of enduring an economic downturn or a recession without credible leadership.

Tarric Brooker is a freelance journalist and political commentator. You can follow him on Twitter @AvidCommentator.

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