Opinion The Drum The Drum Updated Ср 13 май 2015, 1:18 PM AEST
Treasurer Joe Hockey is congratulated at the dispatch box after delivering the 2015 budget.
AAP: Mick Tsikas
As soon as Treasurer Joe Hockey handed down last night's budget the reactions started rolling in. Was it fair? Was it smart? Was it political? Have your say here and tell us: how do you rate the 2015 budget?
The Abbott Government has handed down its second budget and, as always, the politically charged document has drawn a range of reactions.
What some see as balanced, others see as biased. What some see as principled, others see as political. Everything from foreign aid, to women, to welfare were put under the microscope as commentators weighed in on the budget impact.
And, of course, cartoonists had their own unique take on it for today's front pages.
Small businesses have been declared the big winners in what has been dubbed the "have a go" budget. As part of the $5.5 billion package to help more than two million small businesses. they will be able to deduct any asset costing less than $20,000.
"Cars and vans, kitchens and machinery - anything under $20,000 is immediately 100 per cent tax deductible from tonight," Hockey revealed in his budget speech.
The Australian's John Durie said the idea of small business being a winner was reliant on consumer confidence and the Government's revenue projections holding.
Business and consumer confidence have remained weak, despite the real benefits of low interest rates and petrol process. The fear heading into this budget was that the Government would deliver a tough budget that would hit confidence hard.
Instead it has done the exact opposite, and if anything it is guilty of being too optimistic and abandoning past budgetary reform measures.
Video Joe Hockey interviewed by Leigh Sales
Addressing concerns that the tax breaks for small business could be rorted, CPA Australia's head of policy Paul Drum told the Sydney Morning Herald this wasn't a major concern.
We'd asked for a write-off of $6500. and we got a $20,000 immediate write-off that is generous and shows that the Small Business Minister (Bruce Billson) has been listening to business saying that it needs a shot in the arm to bolster confidence and get the economy back on track.
After taking aim at Sunrise's David Koch and former Victorian premier, Jeff Kennett, he lashed out at the small business measures in the budget.
The truth in Australia today is, if you can't set up a small business and make a dollar, there is something wrong with you, you shouldn't be in business in the first place. So, there is no need for the Government to be doing this.
This just shows that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are no different to (Kevin) Rudd and (Julia) Gillard, all they are good for is inventing new ways of spending money that the government just hasn't got.
Cuts to foreign aid were always going to attract attention, and the $3.7 billion reduction in the budget over the next three years didn't go unnoticed.
Picking up on the hot topic of "fairness" was Australian National University's Stephen Howes, who wrote on The Conversation that it was hard to use the word "fair" when you looked at how foreign aid was treated.
This financial year alone the aid budget will tumble from A$5.0 billion to A$4.0 billion, which is a cut of exactly A$1 billion, the biggest cut to the aid program ever.
If anyone calls the budget fair, think about aid and our biggest aid cuts ever.
These massive cuts to aid aren't only the worst possible news for poor people, they are bad news for stability and they are bad and damaging for our international standing around the world.
In a sign that aid cuts could face trouble in the Senate, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young took the Government to task on Twitter.
External Link Sarah Hanson-Young
On the other side of the political spectrum independent senator Jacqui Lambie was also unhappy about the aid budget, but because it didn't go far enough. She argued the budget was a "missed opportunity" to saved more money on aid.
External Link Jacqui Lambie
Under the measure, compliance officers in the Department of Human Services will chase outstanding debts from 2010-2013 and investigate cases of fraud.
The president of the National Welfare Rights Network, Kate Beaumont. welcomed the decision to drop plans for a pension indexation and for unemployed people under 30 to wait six months without any income support.
With last week's pension changes, the Government showed that it could listen to community concerns and implement policy reforms that produce fair and sustainable outcomes.
However, Beaumont expressed concern at
the plan to make newly unemployed people aged under 25 wait four weeks to get any government payments.
This will place young people in severe financial hardship, leaving them without food, medicines, money for job search and rent. No income means no income - whether it's for six months or four weeks. There is no place in our social security system for such a harmful approach.
Writing for The Daily Life, Jenna Price has outlined 10 ways the budget has failed Australian women.
From not doing enough on the issue of domestic violence, to changes to paid parental leave, and "no serious attempt to fix employment participation", Price argues women didn't get the news that wanted .
There was also no news of ways to ensure women could make their way back into the workforce. And no news of a fair and equitable paid parental leave scheme. Instead, women who were counting on being able to combine their employer's scheme with the government scheme to get maximum time with their babies may find themselves writing to their senators, imploring them to knock back the government's plan to slash access.
The budget confirmed that new parents won't be able to access both their employer's PPL, if they have one, and the government one. It is estimated about 80,000 new mothers will lose some or all of the government PPL, which is worth up to $11,500.
"As Minister for Women, are you sorry?" Stefanovic asked.
The PM declined to apologise, but said he was doing "what I think is best; what the Government thinks is best in all the circumstances".
Hockey also faced a grilling on Today, this time from co-host Lisa Wilkinson.
External Link Lisa Wilkinson
Was it fair?
After copping criticism for 12 months for what many viewed as an unfair first budget, Hockey was keen to address this issue, and used the term "fair" nine times in his budget speech .
The Treasurer's focus on fairness invited pundits to put the claim to the test, and it wasn't long before critics singled out elements of the budget they believed didn't meet the criteria.
The Age's Josh Gordon said Tony Abbott was playing politics with infrastructure and it wasn't enough that the budget planned to "invest just $1.5 billion in Victorian road and rail infrastructure over five years to 2018-19".
The bias against Victoria when it comes to infrastructure funding is nothing short of breath taking. "Fairness" may be a key theme of the budget, but clearly, when it comes to Victoria this concept has been blown out of the water by political imperatives.
Alice Workman, a political reporter for TripleJ's Hack, turned her eye to young people and how the budget would affect them. She wrote:
External Link Alice Workman Twitter
But the Herald Sun's Ellen Whinnett said while last year's budget was perhaps too ambitious, this week's edition was a "soothing manifesto" .
New spending will outweigh savings. No one will be hugely offended, except a few backpackers whose working holiday will be taxed, a bunch of welfare rorters, and about 80,000 new parents banned from double-dipping on their private and public parental leave.
Just about political survival?
Once the commentariat moved passed the fairness factor, it was on to the next big theme of the night: political survival.
Much of the response from political watchers was that this budget was all about keeping the Abbott Government afloat.
This budget aims to revive the Abbott government's political fortunes, entrench the Coalition base vote with small business, families and farmers and give priority to growth and jobs over budget repair.
It was a theme picked up by other commentators at The Australian, including columnist Chris Kenny, who tweeted:
External Link Chris Kenny Twitter
External Link Chris Kenny Twitter
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten ran a similar line, but was more forthright in his attack. He wasted no time by taking to Twitter soon after Hockey's budget speech.
External Link Bill Shorten Twitter
Joe Hockey's second budget feels confused and contradictory because it is. Its rhetoric is out of kilter with its real purpose - political survival.
The attention on the Coalition's perceived power play ultimately led to speculation that the budget was a primer for an early election.
It will inevitably raise speculation of an early election in the second half of 2015, with both sides of politics now preparing for that contingency through accelerated pre-selections, fund-raising efforts, and policy development.
Video 7:16 Hockey: "We're determined to go full term"
It feels like the last budget before the next election. That is not to suggest an imminent election or even one this year - but there has to be at least a 50-50 chance now of one before May next year.