The hiding of the headline deficit is just one example of the way the budget papers are becoming less informative rather than more, and the way the government's spin doctors are turning them into an exercise in media management rather than transparency and accountability. The budget speech used to be a thorough and trustworthy exposition of the new measures announced in the budget; these days it's a made-for-television rave about the budget's good points....
Spin doctors work on the assumption journalists are both dumb and lazy, meaning they'll focus on whatever news you give them and not think to go looking for the things you conceal. They also assume journalists who benefit from background briefings and selective leaks won't be game to complain publicly about the way they're led around by the nose.
Journalists turn a blind eye to the rank hypocrisy of the Treasurer and Finance Minister piously refusing to comment on what may or may not be in the budget, while the Prime Minister's press office leaks much of its content to selected journalists, then quietly confirms the story's accuracy to those journos who missed the exclusive.
Unfortunately, there are head office-based journos who aren't part of the club and so feel no such inhibition. There are also, believe it or not, economists and even the odd private citizen who read the budget papers in the hope of enlightenment. They're getting the bum's rush.