For South Australian Treasurer Rob Lucas it’s been a long time between drinks – 17 years to be precise.
The treasurer handed down the new Liberal government’s first budget on Tuesday, forecasting modest surpluses over the next four years as he worked to “clean up Labor’s mess”.
It came 17 years after he framed his last SA budget in 2001, in the final year of the previous Liberal administration.
That was a time when John Howard was mid-way through his reign as Australia’s prime minister and when the first season of Big Brother was the bit hit on Australian television.
Now clearly older and a little greyer, Mr Lucas said the process of mapping out the state’s finances was no less “invigorating”.
“I’ve loved every minute of the preparation of this particular budget,” he said.
“It’s been a challenge but one I’ve loved every minute of.”
In comparing 2018 to 2001, Mr Lucas said what had struck him was the ready access to information on the potential impacts of government policies.
In 2001 it would sometimes take weeks to get modelling on what some decisions would mean for people in the community.
“These days, almost at a press of a button and certainly within 24 hours anything is available,” he said.
However, the treasurer said the budget pressures across the almost two decades remained broadly the same but the emphasis and concern in the community was different.
“In the 1990s, the budget problem was all about debt and the reduction of debt,” he said.
“This time round it’s more an issue about balancing the books.”