Lumpy skin and trees for the queen: Extracts from the fine print

By Jason Murphy

March 30, 2022

The APS (Australian Public Service) is an ARE (acronym-rich environment). (New Africa/Adobe)

Here’s something they never tell you about the budget. It’s like the bottom of a kid’s schoolbag at the end of term — full of weird little things that somehow ended up in there and were never taken out.

All the coverage of the budget is of the big stuff. The important stuff. But what about the rest? The rats and mice? When you lower your eyes and delve beyond the headlines, you realise the budget is far more than the neat narrative the treasurer is trying to convey. It’s a blunderbuss packed with strange ideas, and Josh Frydenberg is about to blast Australia with it.

Planting trees for the Queen’s jubilee program ($20.3 million)

Our monarch is someone to be revered, and sure, she probably loves trees. Trees are a fine way to celebrate a career of hereditary privilege. A platinum jubilee doesn’t come around too often. But, um, could the government go a touch faster? Providing funding over three long years may strike one as a trifle… ambitious? Especially for a woman so deep into her nineties. Not to mention so recently bereaved. The jubilation of the jubilee could be well and truly evaporated should the unthinkable happen.

Fighting lumpy skin ($61.6 million)

The normal budget coverage always includes winners and losers. One of the big losers this year is lumps. An astonishing $61.6 million is allocated to fighting “lumpy skin and other biosecurity threats in northern Australia”. It is like a horror movie: Attack of the Killer Lumps — and treasurer Frydenberg is fighting back. Indeed, he’s fighting before the lumps are even here. The budget papers tell us this generous spending of almost three dollars per Australian is for “the potential threat” of lumpy skin. Smooth work, Josh.

Constructing the Lemnos Remembrance Trail on the former site of an Australian field hospital on the Greek island of Lemnos ($4.9 million)

Lemnos is one of the nicest and least spoilt islands in the great Greek archipelago, and this is just an obvious lurk for the many ministers who hope to be present at the unveiling. How many frontbenchers will pack into the delegation? You’d have to imagine quite a few. Sure, there was a field hospital in Lemnos — (For how long? They don’t say!) — yet I have no doubt the veterans’ affairs minister and colleagues spend their spare time combing military histories and cross-referencing AirBnB to find the next site of venerable and august commemoration.

REDSPICE ($9.9 billion)

This multi-billion-dollar defence investment is a demonstration of one of the most acute aspects of Australian government institutional power. The Resilience, Effects, Defence, Space, Intelligence, Cyber and Enablers (REDSPICE) package shows off some of our finest skills: acronym development and deployment. It is no coincidence that the residents of Canberra are considered among the finest players of Wordle. These public servants wrestle letters into clever combos each day of their lives. The APS (Australian Public Service) is an ARE (acronym-rich environment). So what does REDSPICE deliver us, as a nation — beyond obviously making everyone think briefly of former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, AKA Ginger Spice?

The answer to that question is classified.

This article is republished from our sister publication Crikey.


Budget leaves most agencies in holding pattern

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