The 2014 Federal Budget was Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott’s first as Treasurer and Prime Minister respectively. It also had the dubious honour of being the most widely criticised in recent memory. Predicated on a budget ‘emergency’, Hockey prescribed significant cuts to steer the budget back towards surplus. Social services and public sector agencies were amongst the hardest hit. A Medicare co-payment for doctor visits and restricting youth access to unemployment benefits were two of the more controversial items, and they mobilised a broad cross-section of vocal opponents. The 2014 Budget was widely perceived as unfairly – and unnecessarily – targeting the disadvantaged while the wealthy were left relatively unscathed. Although leading economists acknowledged the need for deficit reduction, they generally questioned the timetable and choice of measures. Several budget proposals completely reversed pre-election promises made just months earlier. Others, such as Abbott’s generous Paid Parental Leave scheme, seemed to contradict the Government’s overall call for fiscal restraint.
Part A recounts Hockey’s preparation of the 2014 Budget, the political context and the case for funding cuts. The case also covers various budget processes and instruments, along with how they can be used (or misused) to tell a particular story about the nation’s finances. The case can be used to explore the operation of fiscal frameworks, budget processes, evidence-based decision-making, policy development, and aspects of strategic communication.
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