Cowper is no Balmain, it’s no Fitzroy and it definitely isn’t Newtown or Canberra. Taking out fruity Bellingen and sassy Sawtell it might be a lot closer to a rural Cronulla or Frankston. Cowper elected Luke Hartsuyker in 2001 when the previous National member Garry Nehl retired. When Rudd was swept into office with a major swing to Labor, Hartsuyker collected 39,000 (46.54%) primary votes holding on to the seat with 51.23% of the Two-Party Preferred. Even with the heaviest nostalgia for stable government, of the enduring Prime Minister variety, this will not compute for many Ausvotes readers.

However, the point of this blog series is not to confirm the views of the patrons of The Clock Hotel-Surry Hills but describe the exciting world of Macksville, Bowraville and Bonville and how they will score this week’s Budget and the Coalition in May.

The curious thing is, your loyal Cowper correspondent isn’t convinced a booming economy would save the Federal Government or a booming economy in Cowper would lock in the Nationals’ candidate.

What would a booming economy in Cowper look like, retail shopping would be thriving, Cowper residents would have money to burn in the local shops. Right now, the Cowper retail economy looks obvious to everyone to be anaemic, with empty shops littering commercial areas. If the retail economy was flush with money would a change in Government be any less likely? I’d hesitate to suggest it would. This Government is on the nose because Abbott, Turnbull, Dutton and Joyce look like they have exhausted the naughty corner and should be expelled for their disunity.

That said Budget week leading into an election campaign recommends a long look at the Coalition’s efforts.

2013 Election

The Abbott Coalition made promises about lowering taxes, assisting small business by reducing red tape, generating a million new jobs, building more modern infrastructure, better health and education service through increased local oversight, and building a diverse economy in the wake of the mining boom bust. The loudest promises were arguably:

  • End the Carbon Pricing Scheme which was to become an Emissions Trading Scheme (Labor goal: reduction of Australian greenhouse emissions 5% below 2000 levels by 2020 and 80% below 2000 levels by 2050). Replace with Emissions Reduction Fund.
  • Stop the Government spending more than it earned (Balance the Budget) and put in place a credible plan to repay the debt.
  • Stop the boats through stronger border protection measures
  • Accountable stable Government removing a Government that keeps changing its leader.

When Abbott was swept into government with a major swing to the Coalition, Hartsuyker collected nearly 46,000 (53.05%) primary votes, retaining the seat with 61.71% of the Two-Candidate Preferred.

Scoring Abbott’s Structural Budget Repair

If politics is the art of the possible, the first Abbott-Hockey Budget in 2014 was a stillbirth. The Budget was full of austerity measures which arguably might have caused a recession.

Scorecard – Try Again on the Structural Budget Repair

The second and last attempt, the Abbott-Hockey Budget in 2015, radically revised the narrative around a Budget emergency and a fiscal crisis requiring austerity measures, and was passed by Parliament.

Scorecard – Structural Budget Repair delayed until further notice

2016 Election

The Turnbull Coalition made promises about a welfare crackdown, childcare package, needs-based funding for schools, superannuation reform, maintaining the Emissions Reduction Fund, a Same-sex marriage plebiscite and mental health, but its loudest promises were:

  • Jobs The Turnbull-Morrison Budget of 2016 dumped the Abbott Government’s ‘Work for the Dole’ program and replaced it with Youth Jobs PaTH (Prepare-Trial-Hire); with an intensive pre-employment skills training course, four-twelve week internships, and a wage subsidy for hiring less-than-ready job seekers.
  • Growth through Company Tax cuts
  • Innovation through digital connectivity, the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda (including National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme), and urban infrastructure (Smart Cities Plan)

When the Turnbull Government was nearly swept from office in 2016, losing 14 seats, Cowper held onto its Nationals local member Hartsuyker. Hartsuyker secured well over 47,000 (~46%) primary votes leading to 62.58% of the Two-Candidate Preferred.

Scoring Turnbull’s Building Business Confidence

Scorecard – Business confidence delayed

The second Turnbull-Morrison Budget in 2017 was focused on growing the economy through investing in infrastructure like Snowy Hydro for more and better paying jobs, guaranteeing health care, housing, disability support, education in Gonski 2.0, employment, and arresting the deficit and growth in debt.

Scorecard – Business confidence fragile

The third and final Turnbull-Morrison Budget in 2018 focused on a stronger economy through export trade deals and more tax relief, more jobs through investments in road, railways, airports and energy infrastructure, guaranteeing essential services like Medicare, hospitals, schools and aged care and further arresting the deficit and growth in debt by no longer borrowing money to fund everyday expenditure.

Scorecard – Business confidence sighted

Morrison Year

Back to the current Budget; how can the Government and the Nationals hold onto their 47,000 odd primary votes in May’s election to give them a hope of retaining this seat. If the Government thinks those votes can be bought with some directed spending and tax cuts, they will do it, and the Budget delivered Tuesday aims to do just that.

Infrastructure, sure Coffs Harbour is getting its long-awaited bypass but that won’t be nearly enough to sway many voters. Roads, this electorate could really do with some improvement to its roads. The Budget will see money go directly to the five councils that make up the Cowper electorate for roads:

  • Coffs Harbour – an additional $1.38 million
  • Port Macquarie – an additional $2 million
  • Kempsey – an additional $1.16 million
  • Nambucca – an additional $770,000
  • Bellingen – an additional $594,000

What else, tax cuts, superannuation adjustments, and a youth training scheme for unemployed youth, black spots program, renewal of old bridges and heavy vehicle safety.

And as for Structural Budget Repair – the Government is finally able to forecast revenue greater than expenditure in the following year, whether its public debt repayment is credible is another story.

We should hear the starter’s gun anytime now.

Luke Hartsuyker and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack