It’s telling that during the ABC’s coverage of the budget last night, Deloitte Access economics partner and budget veteran Chris Richardson identified the Abbott government’s first budget as tough, but not as tough as Howard’s first two budgets and Keating’s first budget.
A fair analysis, but it didn’t mirror what was being said about the government’s fiscal agenda on Twitter.
If you drew your news from the Twittersphere, then you may have been led believe that Joe Hockey didn’t unveil a budget last night, but rather a doomsday plan to pull Australia into a feudal class system.
Class warfare was the major motif running through the majority of the tweets last night. Some may call this an overreaction. After all, most of the bills could be blocked by the Senate. But it’s justified by the government’s move to cut family benefit tax breaks, make it harder to apply for welfare support, and at the same time, cutting the corporate tax rate.
Meanwhile, other somewhat positive reforms like the government’s investment on infrastructure or its astonishingly un-leaked promise to set up a new fund for medical research flew under the radar.
The criticism spawned its own hashtag, #ThreeWordBudget, and from there Twitter users creatively vented their rage at the government’s plans. Here’s some of the best we could find.
* dont get sick * dont be old * dont be young * dont be unemployed * dont be students * dont have families * dont have cars #threewordbudget— Lord Finnigans 平大王 (@Thefinnigans) May 13, 2014
#threewordbudget welcome to America— Guillermo Bachmann (@Quilush) May 13, 2014
We Owe China #ThreeWordBudget— Obamas Amerika (@ObamasAmerika) May 13, 2014
Cigars for some! #ThreeWordBudget— Andy Thompson (@AndyJTee) May 13, 2014
Winter is coming #threewordbudget— Alana West (@alana_west90) May 13, 2014
Actual class warfare. #threewordbudget— ABC News Intern (@ABCnewsIntern) May 13, 2014
the 2014 budget #threewordbudget— chris berg (@chrisberg) May 13, 2014
This tweet about sums it up.
Meanwhile, Treasurer Joe Hockey made no attempt to reply to the criticism. In fact, his last tweet was almost a week ago.
After six yrs of Labor, spending growth is one of the highest in developed world. Australia needs to take action. pic.twitter.com/bz8RAKKH1Q— Joe Hockey (@JoeHockey) May 6, 2014
Other well-followed Liberal politicians, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull also didn’t reply to the criticism. The Greens, on the other hand, capitalised on it. Let’s hope that the Liberals were at least listening to what was being said on the platform.
Going back to Richardson’s comments, it’s interesting to consider that back in the Howard and Keating days, the government would have to wait up to a week for an opinion poll to indicate how their budget was received.
They would also rely on the press to communicate and, in part, justify the tough decision made by government.
Nowadays, the game has changed. Social media is judging government decisions in real-time and for some it’s their only source of news on the matter.
The fact that the government seemingly didn’t even consider this may only make the popularity blow from this budget even worse, possibly worse than former prime ministers' notorious budgets.
We’ll leave you with one last tweet -- a pretty insightful one that perhaps hints at the government’s strategy all along:
Got a question? Ask the reporter @HarrisonPolites on Twitter or leave a comment below. He will be off trawling the #ThreeWordBudget hashtag for more laughs.