Why Would Any Sane Person Believe Treasury’s Carbon Tax Modelling When Its Budget Forecasting Record Is This Bad?

12 Jul

Adoration of the Golden Calf - Nicolas Poussin, 1629

The Treasury department is – like many false idols – placed up on a pedestal and revered as some kind of infallible authority.

An economic god.

And when it comes to our Green-Labor-Independent minority dictatorship’s newly finalised “carbon pricing mechanism”, the infinite wisdom of the Treasury department will once again be held up as the final Word.

We are talking, of course, about a government department long headed by well known green cargo cult members. True believers in the warmist cult, such as former Treasury secretary Ken Henry. And the latest appointee from among the green faithful, Martin “Mini-me” Parkinson. Previously the head of the government’s new Climate Change department.

So today, I’d like to indulge in a little “Moses” reenactment.

You know … the old Bible story.

The one where Moses smashed in pieces the golden calf that the people had taken to worshipping.

The Treasury department is our modern equivalent.  It has become a sacred cow.

I think it is high time we ritually slaughtered this sacred cow.  In much the same way as our minority dictatorship has slaughtered Aussie farmers’ cattle export industry.

It seems that we are all expected to (once again) bow and scrape to the Treasury sacred cow, when our dictators tell us that the economic modelling for their new “carbon pricing mechanism” all stacks up.

Yes indeed, we are all expected to accept in blind faith, that the Treasury department’s forecasts and predictions of the financial effects of this great new economic reform bankers’ money-go-round, are solid and sound.

Hmmmm.

Perhaps if Treasury’s forecasts and predictions as prophesied in past budgets can be shown as having been accurate, then we might have some basis, some reason, for placing our faith in them regarding this new carbon dioxide mega-scheme … right?

Well, let’s take a look at them, shall we.

And let’s keep it really simple.

Let’s not slice and dice every line item in their past Budget forecasts. Let’s just see how accurate they were with the two (2) basic, headline Totals.

1. Revenue (ie, income), and

2. Expenses.

Let’s look at the original Budget forecasts that our Treasury gods made in 2007-’08.  And especially, let’s note their “forward estimates” made back then, for the following 3 years.

After all, the Government’s “carbon pricing mechanism” plan has an initial 3 year “fixed price period”.

So, if we can see that Treasury got their Budget forecast reasonably accurate for the three years from 2007-’08, then maybe … just maybe … we can have a little confidence in their abilities, and their forecasting accuracy.

Note too, that the 2007-’08 Budget forecasts – prepared by the Ken Henry-led Treasury department – were for the Howard-Costello Government. So we are talking here, about the Treasury sacred cow’s forecasting effort for the so-called “World’s Greatest Treasurer” Peter Costello’s final budget.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

Here’s the original 2007-’08 Budget document, showing “estimates” and “projections” for Revenue:

2007-'08 Budget Paper No. 1, Statement No. 5

Ok.

So, in the May 2007-’08 Budget, Treasury “estimated” Revenue of $246.8 billion for the year 2007-’08.

And they “projected” Revenue of $260.7 billion for the year 2008-’09, and $274.6 billion for 2009-’10.

(Unfortunately, we cannot compare the forecast versus actual Revenue and Expenses for the 4th year (2010-11) of the 2007-’08 forward estimates, because the Final Budget Outcome for that year will not be released until September 2011.)

How well did our Treasury gods do on those “estimates” and “projections” for Revenue?

Let’s take a look.

Here’s the Treasury’s Final Budget Outcome for Revenue in 2007-’08:

2007-'08 Final Budget Outcome - Revenue - Part 1, Table 2

Hmmm. $303.7 billion in actual Revenue, versus the $246.8 billion they “estimated” just 1 year earlier.

An error factor of 23%.

Here’s the Treasury’s Final Budget Outcome for Revenue in 2008-’09:

2008-'09 Final Budget Outcome - Revenue - Part 1, Table 1

Hmmm. $298.9 billion in actual Revenue, versus the $260.7 billion they “projected” just 2 years earlier.

An error factor of 14.6%.

And finally (for Revenue), here’s the Treasury’s Final Budget Outcome for Revenue in 2009-’10:

2009-'10 Final Budget Outcome - Revenue - Part 1, Table 1

Hmmm. $292.8 billion in actual Revenue, versus the $274.6 billion they “projected” just 3 years earlier.

An error factor of 6.6%.

Summary – Revenue.

Treasury’s 2007-’08 Budget “estimates” and “projections” for Revenue in the following 3 years, were wrong by a factor of +23%, +14.6%, and +6.6% respectively.

Or to put it another way, in the 2007-’08 Budget the Ken Henry-led Treasury department underestimated future government revenue by a grand total of $113.3 billion over the first 3 years of their “forward estimates”.

Incredible. They actually received $113.3 billion more than they originally forecast through to EoFY 2010. And yet, these Treasury gods and their Rudd-Gillard-Goose muppets have still managed to plunge Australia into $194 billion in gross debt by mid-2011.

That probably has something to do with their out-of-control spending, right?

Indeed.

Let’s move on to Expenses.

Here’s the original 2007-’08 Budget document, showing “estimated” and “projected” Expenses:

2007-'08 - Budget Paper No. 1, Statement No. 6

Ok.

So, in the May 2007-’08 Budget, Treasury “estimated” Total Expenses of $235.6 billion for the year 2007-’08.

And they “projected” Total Expenses of $247.5 billion for the year 2008-’09, and $259.7 billion for 2009-’10.

How well did our Treasury gods do on those “estimates” and “projections” for Expenses?

Let’s take a look.

Here’s the Treasury’s Final Budget Outcome for Expenses in 2007-’08:

2007-'08 Final Budget Outcome - Expenses - Part 1, Table 3

Oops. $280.1 billion in actual Expenses, versus the $235.6 billion they “estimated” just 1 year earlier.

An error factor of 18.9%.

And don’t forget, ladies and gentlemen … the GFC had not even hit yet! That came 4 months later, in September 2008. Our new PM Kevin07 evidently got off to a treasury-emptying head start, even without a GFC as the excuse.

Here’s the Treasury’s Final Budget Outcome for 2008-’09. This is the year that included the GFC panic, from September ’08 through early 2009:

2008-'09 Final Budget Outcome - Expenses - Part 1, Table 1

Oops. $324.6 billion in actual Expenses, versus the $247.5 billion they “projected” just 2 years earlier.

An error factor of … gulp31.1%.

And finally (for Expenses), here’s the Treasury’s Final Budget Outcome for Expenses in 2009-’10:

2009-'10 Final Budget Outcome - Expenses - Part 1, Table 1

Oops. $339.2 billion in actual Expenses, versus the $259.7 billion they “projected” just 3 years earlier.

An error factor of … gulp30.6%.

Summary – Expenses.

Treasury’s 2007-’08 Budget “estimates” and “projections” for Expenses in the following 3 years, were wrong by a factor of +18.9%, +31.1%, and +30.6% respectively.

Or to put it another way, in the 2007-’08 Budget the Ken Henry-led Treasury department underestimated future government expenses (ie, spending) by a grand total of $201.1 billion over the first 3 years of their “forward estimates”.

Incredible. These Treasury gods and their Rudd-Gillard-Goose muppets spent $201.1 billion more than they originally forecast through to EoFY 2010.

Here’s another way of looking at the Treasury department’s forecasting genius.

It’s a chart showing the Treasury’s 2007-’08 Budget forecast for Revenue over the following 3 years (blue line), versus the actual Revenue in the Final Budget Outcome for each of those years (green line):

And here’s another chart, showing the Treasury’s 2007-’08 Budget forecast for Expenses over the following 3 years (blue line), versus the actual Expenses in the Final Budget Outcome for each of those years (green line):

It’s interesting to note that Treasury underestimated both Revenue, and Expenses.

Convenient. Very convenient.

After all, most citizens will take more kindly to a government Budget that “forecasts” a total tax take … and total government spending … that are 20% – 30% less than they eventually turn out to be. And the odds of getting caught out are low – how many citizens (or journalists) ever bother to check how close the Treasury/Government’s final budget results came to their original “forward estimates”?

Now, there will doubtless be those who will cry out, “But wait! What about the GFC?! The Treasury forecasts were wrong because of the GFC!”

Indeed.

Our Treasury gods, with all their degrees and PhD’s … did … not … see … the … GFC … coming.

Think about that.

Why would any sane person believe in Treasury’s economic forecasting abilities now … after they totally failed to see that one coming?

After all, it’s not as though there is any shortage of dire warning signs out there right now, alerting us to an impending GFC 2.

A “bigger Armageddon”.

We have been documenting these warning signs coming from all over the world – and from here in Australia too – right here on this blog.

If the impact of the GFC is your excuse for the Treasury’s abject failure to get within a bull’s roar of predicting the Budget revenue and expenses for 3 years ahead of time … that they only got it so very, very wrong because they did not see that impact on the Budget coming … then I rest my case.

By your own words … and their own data … they stand condemned.

(And by the words of Macquarie Economic Research too. Click here to see what they had to say about the “truly extraordinary” Treasury modelling underpinning the recent May budget)

UPDATE:

A late thought that just occurred to me.

At precisely the time that Peter Costello was handing down the Treasury department’s 2007-’08 Budget “forward estimates” that we have just examined – in early May 2007 – your humble blogger was commanding his superannuation fund manager (contrary to strenuous “expert” financial advice) to put all his super into cash –

Why?

Because thanks to the clear evidences already coming out of America and elsewhere in the world, even I could see that a GFC was bearing down on us.

The overpaid, tea leaf reading numpties led by former Treasury secretary Ken Henry … could not see it.

UPDATE 2:

Feb 7, 2012

Reader and Twitter follower @Ayeshavit asked me to update this post to capture the Final Budget Outcome for 2010-11 … the last year of the 2007-08 “forward estimates” by the Treasury genii.

Recapping – way back in the (Coalition’s last) May 2007-’08 Budget, Treasury “estimated” Revenue of $287.3 billion for the year 2010-’11.

And they “projected” Expenses of $272.7 billion for the year 2010-’11.

Now, from the 2010-11 Final Budget Outcome, here’s what the Labor government actually achieved in 2011-’11:

Final Budget Outcome 2010-11, Part 1, Table 1

Oops.

$302.0 billion in actual Revenue, versus the $287.3 billion they “projected” just 4 years earlier. An error factor of 5.1%.

And ‘Payments’ (ie, Expenses)?

Double Oops.

$346.1 billion in actual Expenses, versus the $272.7 billion they “projected” just 4 years earlier. An error factor of 27%.

Yup. The Labor Government spent more than one-quarter more money in 2010-’11, than Treasury had “projected” in 2007-’08.

Isn’t it interesting how the Treasury department’s “forward estimates” actually turn out?

What a shame for all Australians, that the lamestream financial and economic commentariat never bother to go back and compare what Treasury originally said, versus the reality of what actually happens.

Instead, sheep-like, they lap up and bleat on to the public whatever nonsense “projections” the Treasury puts out on Budget night … as though it has actually happened.

When as you can see, the Treasury’s “forecasts” are not worth the paper they are printed on.

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7 Responses to “Why Would Any Sane Person Believe Treasury’s Carbon Tax Modelling When Its Budget Forecasting Record Is This Bad?”

  1. Whacked July 12, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Let us be honest .. whose sane?

    The sheeple believe what they want to believe.

    These pubic (sic) servants are out of date, have dated software and rely on outdated policies (Friedman and Keynes).

  2. Fred July 12, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    Yes, anyone half-way watching what was coming in those years could have seen the GFC coming. So many charts pre-GFC were screaming “go cash”, and the yank officials were pacifying the world with “the sub-prime issue is small and had passed”. Hah Hah hah.

    Although I am over their gold spruking, I do have Daily Reckoning negativity to thank for saving my butt. And I distinctly recall a day they commented an odd huge 1 day spike-down in the Lehman Bro’s price. It went back to normal the next day. What was up? About a month later it fell over completely. A few knew.

    Agreed, financial crises & timing is no accident. Funny how governments seem to help in the necessary distractions and misinformation to keep the punters betting when they should be pulling back.

  3. Gromit February 9, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Fully support analysis of forecasts by official agencies. Like everyone else they are not infallable. But in the interests of having accurate figures on which to make conclusions and have a debate, you need to know about a problem with your calculations. The 2007-08 Budget that you use as the base for your calculations was the last Costello Budget. Costello always considered the GST to be a state tax and left the GST collected and the grants made to the states out of his numbers (against the advice of the budget accountants). All of the outcomes you quote are from the Labor Govt. When they came to office they chose to include the GST collected and paid to the states in the figures. Given GST collected and paid is $40 billion or more per year, this explains a large amount of the forecast error you have picked up and a major reason why your calculations show higher revenue even though there was a GFC. In saying this, totally accept there will still be forecast errors – nobody can know the future with certainty.

    • The Blissful Ignoramus February 9, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

      Could you point me to specific notes in subsequent budgets that draw attention to this change in methodology re GST that you refer to?

    • Andrew August 26, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      Barnaby is wrong then.

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