It’s doubtful even the Prime Minister knows when the next election will be.

Most pundits suspect it will be before the 31st of May 2019 as that is the deadline for calling a half-Senate election. So it’s likely that the Federal Budget to be handed down next week will be the last before a general election.

The Government will want to be seen as economically responsible, yet generous to their key targets of families, self-funded retirees and small business.

Labor will be seeking to position the Government as being mean, tricky and out of touch.

Crucial to both strategies will be the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Treasurer and Shadow Treasurer.

Phil Gaetjens – Chief of Staff to the Treasurer, the Hon. Scott Morrison MP

There are few staffers to which the term ‘warhorse’ apply. Phil Gaetjens is one of them.

Gaetjens is a staffer from hallowed Howard era and is credited with helping to develop many of the economic strategies that secured the Coalition four terms in Office.

With a degree in economics and accounting, Gaetjens served in the office of Costello for over a decade, ultimately as Chief of Staff, helping forge policies that strengthened the Australian economy during periods of global financial turmoil.

A serious accident sidelined his career for a short time, however, Gaetjens’ resilience won out and following the defeat of the Coalition in 2007, he took up a role with the Federal Treasury.

In August of 2011, Gaetjens was appointed Secretary of the Treasury in NSW, advising the newly minted NSW Treasurer and later Premier, the Hon. Mike Baird.

In 2015, Gaetjens returned to Canberra as Chief of Staff to Treasurer, Scott Morrison. Once the Treasurer is on his feet at 7:30pm on May 8th, it will be Gaetjens job to help sell the budget to the public and more importantly, to the Coalition Party Room.

James Cullen – Chief of Staff to the Shadow Treasurer, the Hon. Chris Bowen MP

There is one word to sum up James Cullen’s political career. Loyalty. In the diabolical working world of Australian politics, there are few staffers who have served for so long under one MP.

Cullen graduated from the University of Sydney with a degree in Economics, Political Science and Government in 2003. When Chris Bowen succeeded Janice Crosio as the Member for Prospect in 2004, one of his first fresh faced new staffers was James Cullen.

Cullen served with Bowen through his appointment to Shadow Cabinet and eventually, as a Ministerial staffer to Bowen following the Rudd victory in 2007.

The big break for Cullen came with Bowen’s appointment to Cabinet in June 2009. Bowen was promoted to Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law and Minister for Human Services and Cullen, having earned his stripes as a loyal political operative, was elevated to Deputy Chief of Staff.

In September 2010, Bowen succeeded Senator Chris Evans as Minister for Immigration and early in January 2011, Cullen was finally promoted to Chief of Staff.

As a mark of Cullen’s devotion, he refused to disappear into the ether following Bowen’s decision to quit the Gillard Cabinet after an unsuccessful Leadership spill in March 2013. Following Rudd’s successful Leadership challenge in June 2013, Bowen was returned to Cabinet as Treasurer with Cullen right alongside him as Chief of Staff.

Cullen stayed with Bowen in Opposition as Chief of Staff to the Shadow Treasurer.

Having seen the Treasury portfolio from both sides of the fence, Cullen has the experience necessary to pin the Government on perceived economic failings on March 8th. Some may question his ‘real world’ experience, but none question his political nous, his devotion to his boss and to the Labor Party.