We have a new Government in Victoria. The Libs have been run out of town on their own freeway. The end of a one term Government came with a degree of lamenting and eulogising from the conservative side of politics. James Patterson from the Institute of Public Affairs (or SPECTRE as they are known in the James Bond franchise), said in The Age the Baillieu/Napthine Government was not without achievement and "its budget management is the envy of the federation, with a prized AAA credit rating and budget surpluses forecast for the foreseeable future." Really? That's one for the history books is it?
This country has an irritating obsession with budget surpluses. Don't get me wrong, the economy is important; people's livelihoods depend on it. But I wouldn't want to be hanging my legacy on running a surplus. If that's your ultimate goal in politics, you severely lack imagination. Structural changes to the economy, like floating the dollar or tackling income inequality, are worth being remembered for. But no civilisation is going to be considered great because they spent less than they received in revenue a few years running.
Like I said, economic management shouldn't be dismissed as unimportant, but we should think of it as back-of-house; what is done with the money is the show.
But the conservatives have convinced everyone that surpluses are a must, no matter the economic circumstances of the day. And they remind us of it in any postmortem of their time in government. I sure as hell wouldn't want it as the centrepiece of my eulogy.
"So many memories of Gramps, but the main thing I remember about him was that he always made his mortgage repayments on time. One day, three utility bills arrived on the same day and I'll never forget what happened next: he went down to the post office and paid them.
"Gramps never had a credit card because he didn't want to be in deficit. It meant that he often missed out going to concerts and events because the ticketing was done online and required a credit card payment. But it didn't matter to Gramps. He may have traveled nowhere and done nothing, but the man's ledger books are a work of art."
Achievement is where you make a difference to people's lives, or change the country/state for the better. This should be the focus, because the list of history's greatest economic managers is, well, nonexistent.