It’s a symptom, perhaps, of the political spin cycle which has seen most of the big-spending elements already pre-announced well before budget day, but despite a record infrastructure spending commitment – albeit predicated on significant support sought from the Commonwealth – the document was not so much in the black as ‘in the beige’.
At least, that was the tack the media questioning seemed to take, with TV news veteran Mike Smithson – having expected a ‘sexed-up’ splurge – instead declaring it “the most sexless budget I’ve covered in 23 years”.
“Well, I don’t have the same experience you do, Mike,” a bemused Koutsantonis replied.
He disagreed with the sentiment, noting investment in a new Women’s Hospital – sans the promised Children’s one, for now – money for South Road and generic “infrastructure spending”, and musing that “one person’s sex appeal is another person’s boredom”.
“I think it’s very sexy… it’s got a red dress on and walking down the street,” he enthused, before noting that references to the colour red are best avoided on Budget Day.
“Or a black dress,” he pondered, before deciding: “I’m a Liverpool fan, so it’s red.”
The theme of female apparel continued as he was quizzed about stimulus spending – and why wait until the last budget before polling day to dip into the surplus to generate jobs.
“You don’t put all your frocks in the shop at once during sales,” Koutsantonis explained.
“If we put everything we had into stimulus two years ago we wouldn’t have the capacity to do it now, in a sustainable way.
“When unemployment in SA hit 8 per cent, our opponents said it would go to double digits and stay there… we’ve worked tirelessly [to avoid that].”
Despite the colourful rhetoric, Koutsantonis’s ‘steady as she goes’ budget might be more embedded in his stated assumption that “the average South Australian doesn’t pay much attention to politics”.
At least, until they stand at the polling booth, pencil in hand.
And he’s fervently hoping that by that time, his sexless budget might have nonetheless sown a seed of life in the SA economy.
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