Pol­lies take plum seats

Thou­sands of dol­lars in free tick­ets for MPs, sen­a­tors, min­is­ters

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - AN­NIKA SMETHURST

SPORTS-LOV­ING politi­cians have re­ceived thou­sands of dol­lars worth of free tick­ets to some of the coun­try’s big­gest events.

Gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments re­veal Fed­eral MPs are be­ing show­ered with free­bies by sport­ing and cul­tural bod­ies which has seen them se­cure plum seats at the tennis, cricket and ma­jor con­certs.

Lib­eral WA Se­na­tor Linda Reynolds, the As­sis­tant Min­is­ter for Home Af­fairs, ac­cepted two passes to the WA Cricket As­so­ci­a­tion, while fel­low WA MP Steve Irons was at Perth Sta­dium for Aus­tralia’s One Day In­ter­na­tional.

With the Aus­tralian Open due to kick off to­mor­row, MPs are ex­pected to flock to Melbourne to catch some of the ac­tion at Rod Laver Arena.

WA’s La­bor back­benchers Matt Keogh, Pa­trick Gor­man and Josh Wil­son have had their tennis fix at the Hop­man Cup fi­nal where they were wined and dined in a cor­po­rate box last week.

Aus­tralia’s dis­mal performance in the cricket failed to de­ter Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton, who was spot­ted at the Sydney Cricket Ground for the first day of the New Year’s Test.

As a ju­nior player he may have de­feated Mark Philip­pous­sis in dou­bles, but Trea­surer Josh Fry­den­berg re­mained in the com­men­tary box dur­ing last week’s Kooy­ong Clas­sic.

Min­is­ter for Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Dar­ren Ch­ester was given two tick­ets to Welling­ton Phoenix’s 1-1 draw with Melbourne Vic­tory on De­cem­ber 28, cour­tesy of Tel­stra.

La­bor Se­na­tor An­thony Chisholm re­ceived four free tick­ets to watch the Soc­ceroos and Korea face off in an in­ter­na­tional friendly at Sun­corp Sta­dium cour­tesy of on­line book­maker Bet365.

As ex­pected, Sports Min­is­ter Se­na­tor Brid­get McKen­zie has spent her sum­mer at some of Aus­tralia’s best sport­ing grounds in­clud­ing the MCG for the Box­ing Day test.

Se­na­tor McKen­zie tweeted that the cricket was re­spon­si­ble for “strong eco­nomic cul­tural and so­cial links be­tween India and Aus­tralia.”

Mu­si­cal the­atre fan Christo­pher Pyne re­ceived two free tick­ets to see Mamma Mia in Ade­laide val­ued at $220.

La­bor’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions spokes­woman Michelle Row­lands mixed high and low cul­ture with free tick­ets to see Bell Shake­speare’s Julius Cae­sar at the Sydney Opera House as well as a dou­ble pass to the film­ing of the My

Kitchen Rules semi­fi­nal.

NSW Lib­eral Trent Zim­mer­man was shouted free tick­ets to Tay­lor Swift cour­tesy of Tab­corp.

Fed­eral MPs and sen­a­tors have 28 days to up­date the regis­ter after re­ceiv­ing gifts such as free tick­ets.

THE Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s re-elec­tion strat­egy will be in tat­ters if the eco­nomics out­fit Fitch Solutions is cor­rect and the fore­cast sur­plus for 2019-20 evap­o­rates.

It pre­dicted this week that global eco­nomic con­di­tions were de­te­ri­o­rat­ing in a way that might re­quire the Gov­ern­ment to prop up the national econ­omy with more spend­ing.

If rev­enues fall and the prop­ping up ef­forts are re­quired, that would be enough to turn the small sur­plus into a deficit, es­pe­cially if the growth fore­casts need to be down­graded. The Gov­ern­ment is build­ing its re-elec­tion strat­egy around con­trast­ing its abil­ity to bring the Bud­get back into sur­plus with the conga line of deficits that built up on La­bor’s watch.

Of course, that only works if next year’s Bud­get ac­tu­ally in­cludes a sur­plus.

The whole rea­son the Bud­get was brought for­ward to April was so Josh Fry­den­berg could rise to his feet and crow about de­liv­er­ing a sur­plus right be­fore the cam­paign for the May elec­tion.

Oth­er­wise the Bud­get sim­ply could have been de­layed, to be de­liv­ered after the elec­tion by the win­ning side.

If the sur­plus evap­o­rates, what does the Gov­ern­ment do? It can hardly call an early elec­tion, say in March. For a start, it would need to see ev­i­dence that the polls have tight­ened to do so, oth­er­wise it would sim­ply be bring­ing for­ward its own po­lit­i­cal death war­rant.

But a March elec­tion would also see an over­lap be­tween the Fed­eral cam­paign and the NSW State cam­paign.

The Gov­ern­ment may sim­ply try to hold on to its growth num­bers, refuse to in­ject ex­tra spend­ing into the econ­omy even if it is needed, and use some of the $9 bil­lion con­tin­gency fund it set aside for tax cuts to in­stead prop up the sur­plus.

The Coali­tion’s plan has been to de­liver a sur­plus then also woo vot­ers with in­come tax cuts.

But if it can only achieve one of the two within the fis­cal en­ve­lope, I would as­sume the sur­plus is the more im­por­tant goal. Or at least it should be.

Hav­ing made such a big deal about the re­turn to sur­plus when an­nounc­ing num­bers in its mid-year eco­nomic out­look, Fry­den­berg and the Gov­ern­ment would have egg smeared all over their col­lec­tive faces if just a few months later, on the eve of the elec­tion no less, they had to con­cede an­other deficit was in the off­ing in­stead.

Peter van Onse­len is a pro­fes­sor at UWA and the po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst at The Sun­day Times.

Free­bies: Linda Reynolds and Matt Keogh.

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