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Release the Commission of Audit!

IN OCTOBER 2013 the incoming Abbott government appointed a handpicked team to produce a National Commission of Audit (NCOA). Its main aim is to recommend savings that’ll deliver a 1% surplus in the Federal accounts by 2023-24. The remit of the committee was limited to savings so it won’t consider the revenue side of the equation.

Commissions of audit date back to the Thatcher years in England and are a tried and tested way for a conservative government to build an argument to slash and burn services. First it limits debate by removing the option of increasing revenue to properly fund services. This is consistent with the neo-liberal agenda for smaller government but will be dressed up as individual choice. The audit report will include a significant number of very unpalatable options the government will initially indicate it’s considering but will eventually reject in favour of a range of slightly more palatable options. The public is then expected to fall on its knees to thank the government for not imposing the harshest savings suggested.

The reality is Australia doesn’t have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem. We’re one of the lowest taxing jurisdictions in the OECD for the level of services provided. Our problem is that through the late 1990s and into the start of this century governments handed surpluses back as tax cuts, significantly eroding our revenue base. At the same time nothing was done to rein in rampant tax evasion by the wealthy while populist, middle-class welfare was rolled out to win elections.

On February 14 this year the Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey was handed the interim report from the NCOA. Despite committing to releasing the report Mr Hockey kept it confidential through the Tasmanian and South Australian elections and now it seems he won’t release it until after the West Australian senate election rerun on April 5. It’s time the Abbott Government came clean and publicly released the NCOA report so Australians have time to understand the recommendations and ensure their views are heard before the 2014/15 budget due to be handed down in May.

If you want to encourage Mr Hockey to release the interim National Commission of Audit report by emailing J.Hockey.MP@aph.gov.au .

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