For those seeking to get a read on where Victoria is heading over the next four years the State Budget is usually a useful tool. Traditionally this annual event allows the Treasurer and Premier a platform to define their Government’s priorities and objectives which are in turn dutifully reported by the state’s media and devoured by interest groups and business. They all then give the Budget a thumbs up, down or something in between.
In this post royal wedding, Osama meeting his end, news saturated week most of the Victorian public would hardly know the Budget was handed down.
The public build up to the state budget this year was certainly a variation of sorts on what has become a very standardised approach.
Gone were the “good news story” drops commonly doled out by governments in the days leading up to Budget. The Bailieu Government indulged in little if any leaking of stories to the media in order to frame the Budget in a positive light.
What was truer to form in this week’s fairly run of the mill State Budget was the concerted effort the new Government made in the lead up and on Budget day itself of pinning the bad news in the Budget on Labor. Despite the Premier’s ‘no more spin’ edict and discarding some of the traditional Budget media tactics, the Government had a message to sell.
For weeks Ministers had been “discovering funding back holes” in regional fast rail, myki, health projects and various IT projects. It was all part of the ground work – identify the problem, blame the previous government and soften the blow on Budget Day.
On Budget Eve the Premier released a short opinion piece to Fairfax media which attacked Labor’s record and painted the former Government as reckless spenders who masked budgetary problems in the final years and basically left the State’s finance in bad shape.
With the groundwork done, the Treasurer revealed a budget that both largely delivered on election promises, as expected, and forecast a substantial rise in state debt.
Not your traditional Budget media strategy, perhaps, but carefully spun none the less.