Everyone knows you should never get between a politician and a "working family". Working families are the political gold. They pay the tax, while creating the future tax-payers, and they've been the apple of every treasurer's eye since opinion polling was invented.
But Tuesday night Scott Morrison erased them from his political sell. Gone in a puff of Mathias Cormann's cigar smoke.
After years of being wooed with baby bonuses, complicated tax concessions, ill-thought-out maternity leave schemes, education promises, morally-fraught double-dipping opportunities, flat-screen TVs and thinly-veiled class warfare -- families barely rated a mention in Morrison's Federal Budget speech.
I think I saw a picture of one on the cover of one of the Budget overview documents -- but otherwise they were very thin on the ground.
Howard and Costello -- who perfected the art of buying off parents with resources boom cash -- would be most perplexed.
Families got a small cameo during Morrison's advocacy of small government and the expansion of the middle income tax bracket:
"This modest tax relief demonstrates that wherever possible we prefer to leave a dollar in Australians' pockets than take it for the Government's pocket, because we know that it is money in your pocket that can help you and your family most."
We were also delivered the sobering news that "In 2012, 12 percent of Australian children aged under 15 were growing up in jobless families."
And we were reminded that Morrison's plan to get the Budget back on track would require fortitude, and: "the future of all Australians and their families depend on it."
So it appears the salad days are over for hard-working Australian breeders -- politically at least.
Single, childless people, who've been studiously ignored in the Budget since budgets began, won't be able to whinge so loud about it now that families have joined them in the silent majority. (How annoying for them -- billions of pixels are burned every year in Budget week in blog posts by single people yelling "what about me!").
Morrison also missed the opportunity to settle once-and-for-all how Australian women of child-bearing age are best able to contribute to the nation's economic recovery. Are we supposed to have babies -- and how many of them is best for GDP beyond the forward estimates? Do we need to "have one for the country?" Is it okay if we double-dip on maternity leave or does that make us a burden?
And how are we supposed to build up our super while we're doing all this breeding and working? Should we go back to work? Dump the kids on Grandma? Is the Nanny Pilot just Mary Poppins with a jet strapped on her umbrella?
We need to know, Scott! We've been getting mixed messages for so long now and it's exhausting.
Morrison will no doubt argue that the best thing for Australian families is a strong economy, a stable budget and low unemployment. He has a point, but in the heat of the election campaign, he and Malcolm Turnbull will be missing a big chunk of political capital.
In 1996 Labor delivered a family-free Budget -- look how well that turned out for Paul Keating.
The whitewashing of families from the Budget papers is unlikely to go unnoticed by the ALP. Photogenic babies of Australia beware, Bill Shorten and his gang is going to be invading your childcare centre any day now, press pack in tow.Suggest a correction