Suddenly everyone is a chef, such is the popularity of television cookery shows.
But in the context of political debate, it’s not a good thing.
Short of there being a national emergency, the next time federal politicians meet in Canberra will be to hear Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget speech on May 13.
Unsurprisingly, the final parliamentary sitting week before the long Easter break turned into a real bunfight.
Amidst the oral jousting at the return of knights and dames, red tape meeting a fiery end at the stake and the announcement that we all have the right to be bigots, was claim and counter-claim about “cooking the books”.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen claimed Hockey had artificially inflated the size of the government’s debt and deficit in the mid-year budget review, while blaming Labor for the position.
“Talk about cooking the books, it’s like an episode of MasterChef over there,” Hockey responded, pointing to the opposition benches.
He reminded everyone that his Labor predecessor, Wayne Swan, “overcooked them” after 300 times promising a surplus.
“I’ve heard of a souffle rising twice, but not 300 times.”
Hockey promised his first budget would show the extent to which Labor hid a “tsunami” of new spending beyond the four-year estimates.
How big we’ll see when the 2017/18 financial year comes into the budget framework for the first time.
Bowen turned up the heat on Hockey as he brandished Parliamentary Budget Office analysis that showed the government had created a “doomsday picture” to justify massive spending cuts.
The analysis had taken into account the coalition’s $14 billion of spending and the removal of Labor’s fiscal rules that would keep future spending growth to two per cent of gross domestic product.
It estimated 2023/24 net debt to be $260 billion – less than the $370 billion estimated by Hockey – and a $34 billion surplus that year rather than a $12 billion deficit.
“For all his complaining in opposition, this shows once and for all that Joe Hockey is the MasterChef of cooking the books,” Bowen said.
Hockey insisted his budget numbers tell the truth and Labor’s didn’t.
He ridiculed the suggestion that if the coalition had kept to Labor’s budget rules the budget would be coming back to surplus.
“The problem is that Labor never kept to their budget rules,” he said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten stirred the pot in a lunchtime address to the National Press Club, accusing the government of a Pavlovian response to economic matters – “play politics, blame Labor and never let the facts get in the way of the slogan”.
But like a busy, post-lunchtime kitchen, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told his coalition colleagues that Labor had left behind an “absolutely cataclysmic mess”.
What ingredients will go into fixing the budget is very much up in the air at this stage, although Abbott says the government will be sticking to all its election promises.
Opponents say Abbott’s generous paid parental leave scheme is a recipe for disaster.
In opposition, the coalition described the country’s finances as a “budget emergency”, suggesting Hockey’s debut will be reminiscent of Peter Costello’s tough, inaugural budget in 1996.
However, in government it seems that Hockey will be unable to flip the budget back to surplus in a couple of years like Costello.
Instead, his budget will have a “credible path” back to the black without undermining economic growth.
A taste of the government’s budget decisions will come from recommendations made by the commission of audit into government spending, assuming a promise to release them before budget day is fulfilled.
But Labor is bitter the release is unlikely before the April 5 Western Australian Senate election re-run.
Hockey says Labor has left him a mountain of a challenge.
Quoting from an analysis by deputy Treasury secretary David Gruen, the treasurer said if the current deteriorating trend of the budget continued, Australia would have to have the very best productivity growth it has had in 60 years just to maintain current living standards.
“We in the coalition are absolutely determined to climb the mountain, we will not leave Australians with a lesser quality of life,” he said.
That would be The Great Outdoors, a different kettle of fish altogether.