Tim Blair quotes a statement I and others wrote in 1996, criticising expenditure cuts, and saying in part
More attention needs to be given to the role of government expenditure on repairing the nationâ€™s rundown infrastructure, creating jobs and fostering industry and regional development. If necessary, increased taxation and other revenue options should be under consideration. Savage expenditure cuts are economically irresponsible and socially damaging.
As Blair points out^, this is an argument that has now been pretty generally accepted. Most of the cuts we were criticising have been reversed (not without doing damage along the way). Infrastructure spending is now a high priority for governments. Without getting into sterile arguments about whether or not the current Federal government is the highest taxing in Australian history, it’s clear that the idea of radical cuts in public expenditure and taxation, which Blair has long advocated, is politically defunct in Australia.
The case was well stated by one of our political leaders in 2004, when he observed
There is a desire on the part of the community for an investment in infrastructure and human resources and I think there has been a shift in attitude in the community on this, even among the most ardent economic rationalists.
He could just about have been quoting our words from 1996.
As I noted at the time
A new bipartisan consensus has emerged, in favor of the social-democratic policies that have, until recently, been derisively described as ‘tax and spend’.
The only surprise is that it has taken Blair so long to wake up to the fact that he’s on the losing side of this debate.
^ With yet another kind reference to my success in winning a Federation Fellowship.