Sometimes if I'm busy I send my daughter to the shop if the milk runs out.
She presents in the kitchen with a little purple purse and I give her some money. If I'm feeling particularly pious (or more pertinently) if she's sounding particularly censorious about the individual actions required to prevent dangerous climate change I will present her with a green bag.
Generally I make sure she has sufficient funds to cover her purchase.
The alternative would be to send her down there to the neighbourhood independent grocer and get her to bluff it out. In this imaginary transaction the dialogue would be something like this: "Oh I'm really sorry. My Mum didn't give me enough money. Can I have the milk anyway?"
In this scenario, despite my daughter's considerable smarts and charms, I imagine the grocer would tell her to go and get lost. Suggested dialogue for aggrieved short-changed grocer: "Don't let the door hit your bum on the way out."
But perhaps I'm under-estimating the considerable power of charm and chutzpah.
Much greater minds than mine recently appear to have embarked on just such an errand.
An Auditor-General's report into the primary school building program released this morning contains the somewhat startling intelligence that the cabinet sub-committee that actually runs the Rudd Government — the Strategic Priorities and Budget Committee — sent officials off to the shop without having enough money to do what they needed to do.
The SPBC are no dummies: that's Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, Treasurer Wayne Swan and PM Kevin Rudd. I'm prepared to bet that at least one of these people would own a calculator, or at least be able to rustle up the back of an envelope.
But according to the bean counters at the ANAO, SPBC knew they had announced a program with a budget that would cover "only 90 per cent of possible expenditure".
Ummm, what about the other 10 per cent?
Suggested dialogue for Commonwealth officials, slightly red-faced: "Ummm, yes, we are a bit short madam, but I wonder if you could just go ahead and build that school hall anyway."
Presumably that line of attack would work about as well as my daughter in the grocery shop.
So no, that wasn't the plan.
Apparently the plan was to announce a program that you know doesn't have quite enough money but hang back for a bit looking confident until someone calls your bluff and then produce the funds when you know you need to.
Shazaam! Or Shazoom . . . or whatever it is that magicians say when they yank rabbits out of hats.
Actual dialogue from ANAO bean-counters this morning: "Ministers advised that they had never intended to hold expenditure to an average 90 per cent of maximum amounts available to each school and they had envisaged that a budget estimates variation may be required to provide more funding, depending on the response of the schools."
Ah yes, I understand now. Maybe the schools wouldn't actually want money to build stuff.
Perhaps there are a significant proportion of Australian school principals and P&Cs that are Buddhists. New free stuff from Canberra? Who the hell wants that? Please don't speak to me, I'm meditating.
Warning to my local grocer: I am rethinking my old-fashioned approach to household consumption — or possibly I'll make inquiries about how one gains access to one of these fantastic "budget estimates variations". Like AMEX, only better.
What about you?
Katharine Murphy is Age national affairs correspondent.