Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

Grattan on Friday: Should a lobby group chair the Audit Commission?

With this week’s announcement of the government’s Audit Commission members and terms of reference, Tony Abbott is starting to get his Rudd-like list of inquiries and reviews on the go. The beginning is…

There are many questions surrounding Tony Abbott’s commission of audit. AAP/Bianca De Marchi

With this week’s announcement of the government’s Audit Commission members and terms of reference, Tony Abbott is starting to get his Rudd-like list of inquiries and reviews on the go.

The beginning is the easy part. But will the PM be able to manage the robust outcomes presented to him?

The commission will land a couple of boxes of firecrackers in the government’s lap in January and March. Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey, and senior ministers will have to decide which to ignite and when - and which to leave in the box.

The fruits of audits are inevitably tricky for politicians. The remit for this one is extremely wide; it is looking at all the federal government does and delivers, what it should and shouldn’t do, and overlaps with the states. It is to recommend savings that would be enough to deliver a surplus of 1% of GDP before 2023-24.

By choosing to have Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd chair the inquiry – as distinct from being one of its members - the government is, to a considerable extent, outsourcing the driving of the project to a Man with a Plan.

Shepherd before the election released the BCA’s Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity. Canvassing the need for an independent, whole-of-government audit (already promised by the Coalition), it said such an inquiry must “come to terms with the appropriate size of government” and “a fundamental issue to be examined must also be the roles and responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the states”.

With his appointment as chair and the audit’s sweeping terms of reference, Shepherd has hit the jackpot. After difficult years with Labor, the big end of town is back at the centre of Canberra town.

The issue with Shepherd as chair is not a narrow conflict of interest - Shepherd, incidentally, this week steps down as chairman of Transfield, a move previously foreshadowed - it is that the government has handed the most important post on its commission to the head of a lobby group.

This is a contrast to 1996 when then treasurer Peter Costello’s audit commission was chaired by Bob Officer, who was an academic at Melbourne University’s Business School.

Moreover, the secretariat for the current audit is to be led by Peter Crone, chief economist for the BCA, who helped prepare the BCA plan.

Crone used to work for John Howard and at the Treasury. He brings a lot of knowledge to the task, and is said to get on well with people around the public service.

But his appointment to head the secretariat is unusual and reinforces the point that the government wants to make sure the audit isn’t “captured” by the current bureaucracy.

The other members of the team are former secretaries of Treasury (Tony Cole) and Finance (Peter Boxall), a former senior Western Australian public servant (Robert Fisher), and former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone. Given the BCA’s pivotal position, and the experience of the others in policy making, the dynamics will be interesting.

The reports will be in time for the budget, allowing for some proposals to be included. They won’t be released before the budget.

The idea has been floated from government circles of including certain controversial measures at the tail end of the budget’s four year forward estimates, with the Coalition avoiding the issue of broken promises by saying it would seek a mandate for them at the 2016 election. One wonders how the politics of that would play.

There is little doubt another audit is desirable, and the only time to do it is at the start of a first term when a new government has plenty of capital in the bank. It is equally clear that it is likely to be a testing exercise for the tyro PM, in terms of managing business expectations, his promises, electoral politics, and senior colleagues.

As things stand Abbott is hedged in by many commitments – and one of his mantras is the importance of keeping his word. These include not to cut (in overall terms) spending on health, education and some other areas. Also, his election policies – such as the much-criticised paid parental leave scheme – are no-go areas for the commission.

The Howard government shied away from much in the Officer report as being too difficult. But Officer still urges this commission to put up strong recommendations. “If the Audit Commission worries about the politics they are letting the government down,” he told The Conversation.

When the BCA was preparing its blueprint, Shepherd said: “The plan we’re putting forward for Australia requires political leaders who are prepared to lose their jobs to get things done.”

This is not likely to be the new PM’s frame of mind.

The response to the audit’s recommendations could be an early test of the relative priorities of Abbott and Hockey.

Hockey identifies with the big end of town more than does Abbott; he is the stronger economic rationalist. He will want to build a reputation as a reforming treasurer and is probably willing to spend a reasonable amount of his political capital to do so. Abbott is likely to be pragmatic with a greater eye to the voters.

History tells us relations between a prime minister and treasurer often develop a special and difficult nature.

Bob Hawke supported Paul Keating’s drive for economic reform but also reined in Keating on political grounds (notably, to Keating’s fury, in 1985 when the political costs of pushing for a broad based consumption tax became too great).

Peter Costello was critical of what he considered John Howard’s spendthrift habits, as Howard used whatever funds were available to massage the voters.

In the Hawke/Keating and Howard/Costello dealings there was also the element of political competition, which manifested itself increasingly as the years wore on.

Abbott and Hockey (who could have got the leadership ahead of Abbott if he had played his cards differently) are blood brothers in these early days of power. But this will be one of the most interesting relationships in this government and the budget, with its response to the audit, could write its first chapter.

Listen to Nick Xenophon on the Politics with Michelle Grattan podcast, available below, by rss and on iTunes.

Join the conversation

117 Comments sorted by

    1. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Jack Ruffin

      There was no balance during the previous government. I did not hear your shrill bleating when that was happening.

      Gillard outsourced economic policy to the Green movement; industrial relations policy to the union movement; immigration policy to the refugee rent seekers; industry policy to the...oh yes there was no industry policy.

      Business groups and in particular small business groups (the main providers of sustainable employment as opposed to those who work in government funded jobs) were…

      Read more
    2. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Martin Connolly

      I am sure the LNP did not get Jack's vote in the first place.

      They believe in climate change, just not a carbon tax which will be used to buy "carbon credits" from scammers around the world. Instead they will spend money on direct action programs which will provide employment and economic activity in Australia. Any good socialist should applaud such a scheme.

      report
    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Ken I'm sure you're a top notch rock wallah ..but while we're talking about 'economic rationalism' you are really playing well off your home turf mate.

      The ETS was the very model of economic rationism - a market-based strategy (destined to be rather ineffectual in my view) and it is now off to the knackers yard to be replaced with an on-budget series of massive government handouts aimed at achieving exactly the same emissions reductions promised by the ETS.

      Please don't confuse yourself here .. Tony is committed to Labor's emissions reductions - Hunt said so to that UN official in no uncertain terms yesterday - they're just going to pay for it via the budget - presumably with borrowed money ... welcome to 'economic rationalism' 2013.

      I'll betcha the Commission of Audit won't be looking at that either.

      report
    4. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter

      I think they will end up actually buying the scammer credits in order to get to the emissions target. It will cost the taxpayer less for the foreseeable future.

      There will be no change to industry emissions and no investment in renewables. But then again, the climate fund would have wasted this money anyway on marginal investments incapable of attracting commercial funding from other sources. Look at Flannery's hot rocks fiasco, that cost the taxpayer $90m in grants. Look at Obam's efforts.

      report
    5. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Ken, this is why you are a geologist and not an economist. Your views here are political rather than economical. Not the same thing at all.

      You don't like anything that is designed to deal with Climate Change or emissions ... it's not a problem as far as you are concerned and anything we do will be a futile waste of money... that about right?

      But unfortunately Tony Abbott is committed to achieving exactly the same outcomes as Labor, but his means of doing so is going to cost you, me, the grand kids and will be largely ineffectual - so yep they'll probably end up spending hundreds of millions on credits elsewhere to meet the targets ... and we'll have nothing whatsoever to show for it. $90 million will be peanuts by comparison ... lunch money.

      Say what you like about Climate Change - I can't change your mind on that - but from an economist's perspective the ETS was a far preferable approach than on-budget handouts and tree planting adventures.

      report
    6. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Vast silent majority? Are we talking about the same election?

      BTW, i own a small business and this government terrifies me.

      report
    7. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      direct action,ok, drying climate, where do we get the water to sustain trees? From csg water perhaps? What do we do when a bushfire burns it all down again? (and what happens to the csg infrastructre to provide that water with the same bushfire.)

      Why pay polluters to pollute aka direct action? Makes no sense when you peel off the politics.

      report
    8. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Ken Swanson, I have seen some childlike responses in TC but yours - it hardly rocks mate!

      We have a new Government with a fireman as PM who cheats on his expenditure claims and a Treasurer bereft of a 2013 financial strategy, despite six years in the wilderness to develop a policy but clearly failed to.

      As you know Hockey standing on the sidelines throwing rocks at the elected Government as it delivered us through the GFC whilst under the massive weight of Peter Costello's 2004-2008 $60 billion…

      Read more
    9. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Jack Ruffin

      Yeah, you owed hm an apology there, Jack! Confusing him with Ken was a terrible insult!

      report
    10. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Look Ken, I could say that there is no need for your aggression but I am supposing that this would be wasting my words. I think the point made by Jack and, indeed, by Michelle Gratton are well made and legitimate. The all important task of directing future government economic policy has been handed over to a group of far too extreme ideologues (many without much substance if you look at them individually) when a more mature approach would have proved more fruitful. We must remember, Ken, that the…

      Read more
    11. Martin Connolly

      Managing Director

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      I feel exactly the same Robert. My business has been running for 24 years, I believe I treat my people well and they treat me well. I don't expect anything from government apart from looking after those not as fortunate, keeping the place safe and running, doing the right thing to others in our name.

      This lot are scary. Their intentions appear small and mean-spirited. They like secrecy and for us to "trust them". All of which makes me want to run away as quickly as possible. Their insistence on everyone stepping aside because they "have a mandate" after Abbott, Bishop, Pine, Hunt and Hockey have spent years screeching at the Labor government. They are self-righteous, pious hypocrites and the worst thing is that they and their followers actually believe they are entitled to think and act like that.

      If Australia signs the TPP they will screw the people and back in the glow and probable backhanders that accrue to them.

      report
    12. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      "Tony Abbott has already lied about the underlying causes of the fires in N.S.W."

      The underlying cause...spin, spin, spin

      Lets deal with the actual cause.

      The fires were started by arsonists.

      The reason they were this severe was because the fuel on the forest floor was at record levels due to the lack of a back burning program. I would like a public statement from Milne saying that the green movement supports mitigating a fire like this in the future by endorsing back burning. Supposedly…

      Read more
    13. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Darren Kay

      Of course they do!

      Their diminished relevance is killing their egos. The other green lobby groups in particular The Climate Institute had better watch out lest Flannery and Co start to canibalise their funding.

      I read the Guardian article. No mention of arsonists. I suppose the Climate Change Fairy came down and willed them to light a match.

      No mention of the need for sensible back burning, which is actually what the real bushfire scientists have said. Oh no, it is all about the fact that the bush is dryer now than a few years ago and that must be why this is is all happening.

      Spin, spin, spin....and attention deficit as well...there is a lot of that going on too.

      report
    14. Darren Kay

      Private trader

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Climate change affects the frequency of particular weather patterns conducive to bushfires eg sustained dry spells which increase fuel loads and hot dry days.

      Ceteris paribus, climate change will raise the frequency of such conditions. This is independent of preventative measures (backburning as Phil Cheney mentioned) and the ignition point (11yo kids/ADF).

      report
    15. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Ken, I have to agree with you that these fires were mainly started by arsonist with the largest fire that burnt out a reported 50,000 hectares and three homes, was caused by the Army on its own admittance. The Army had the first Commando Regiment of a couple of thousand troops stationed nearby at Holdsworthy which it seems we never called on to assist. probably because they Army realised there was little they could do and had to let nature take its course.

      It is not that this is the first time…

      Read more
    16. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      Terry, it is not that fires have never happened in this area of N.S.W., of course they have and nobody would try to deny this, the point is that fires like this do not occur at this time of the year. Arguments around sufficient cause is a philosophical question but let us just say that without the unusually dry conditions no matter how many fires are lit by stray ordnance or young idiots they do not turn into the kinds of fires experienced over the last few days. I'm afraid if you try to deny this then you are denying the science.

      report
    17. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff, Sydney has had five day barely over 32 Celsius this month which matches similar results in 1926. It has had similar hot weather in October in earlier years including 1968 and as recently as 2002.

      Coming from Melbourne we do not consider 32 Celsius hot, just a slightly higher than comfortable albeit we don't get it much in October either. However, our hot bush fire days are well into the forties, including 52 Celsius in 1851 and 47 Celsius in 2010 for Black Saturday. That air is hot air that…

      Read more
    18. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      Terry I for one am missing your point. Multi-functional is fine by me, but I don't see how someone's employment status comes into determining their unacceptable (to you) conclusion. Victoria's climate and environmental conditions have always been extraordinarily different to those of NSW even though we are close in terms of geographical proximity. If you don't believe our climates have changed that's fine. Our problem at the moment appears to be that we are having bush fires circling Sydney and…

      Read more
    19. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Chris, coming from Sydney of course you are going to miss my point which was doubtless crystal clear to the rest of the nation. You are a city of bullshit artists always overstating situations,counting on deception for gain.

      Just look at your childlike media the Daily Telegraph or your army of "shit jocks" spewing their venom to an audience that laps it up as though it is gospel truth. One Sydney radio networks attempt to enter the Melbourne market with 3MTR failed miserably, won less than 1…

      Read more
    20. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      The figures that you have presented, Terry, are largely irrelevant to the discussion as anyone with any familiarity at all with the issues under consideration would know. Fire risk is the result of wet, dry and hot weather. It is how these weather conditions interact over time which results in high fire risk. Not particularly hot days. The reality is that the vast majority of climate scientist are in agreement that anthropogenic climate change will result in more bush fires. If you deny this then…

      Read more
    21. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff, lets have a look at your argument. You say that "fire risk is the result of wet, dry and hot weather. It is how these weather conditions interact over time which results in high fire risk. Not particularly hot days"

      On Ash Wednesday in Melbourne in February 1983, we had a day when as soon as you walked out into the open the air was like a furnace. To anyone in Melbourne it was obvious we were going to get hit with massive bushfires that day and we did. Thousands of homes were lost as were…

      Read more
    22. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      Jeff ... it is not about hot days individually ... it is about a string of them in a run ... and in a pattern of conditions in which fuel loads and the basic preconditions for uncontrollable fires are established.

      With that in mind... I can do no better than quote from Lenore Taylor's excellent piece in the Guardian the other day:

      "After interviewing Hunt, the BBC spoke to Professor Roger Jones from Victoria University, who took the same history of disastrous Australian bushfires Abbott had listed to make his “it’s all part of the Australian experience” argument and pointed out how many years had elapsed between them.

      “Twenty-nine years, 14, 11, nine, six, four … you might detect a pattern in that in that the gap between the fires is getting shorter,” he noted."

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/24/bushfires-coalition-straw-man-against-burning-issue

      report
    23. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      Your argument does not address my earlier post so I can ignore it. Perhaps the oldest trick in politics is to set up straw men arguments which is when you do not address a persons real argument. That is why I said you can tell you are a financial and political STRATEGIST as compared to an ANALYST. Strategic thinkers are unconcerned with 'truth'. So I repeat, as you seem to be unable to follow the argument, what you need to do is show that events like those recently experienced have happened in the…

      Read more
    24. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      With all respect Peter, (and I've enjoyed your posts in the past) Professor Roger Jones appears to be referring to the regularity of fires in the region (at best) not the time of year that these fires have taken place. It is that fires have not occurred in this region at intervals in the past but when these fires have occurred which is the key variable. The attribution of particular climatic events to climate change has always been a challenge. A range of variables need to be considered but one indication is that an event is unprecedented or rare and happening more often. Both formal records and reports from long time residents suggest that this event, as far as I can find, is unprecedented.

      report
    25. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Don't think it's necessarily an either/or issue Jeff ... the insiders suggest that we are looking at a range of systemic changes over the last twenty years or so ... an increase in frequency, and increase in intensity and an increase in the "fire season" itself .

      Perhaps the most telling evidence for the changing nature of fires are the revised fire management protocols and training provided by the RFS and similar ... landscape scale fires fought at a landscape scale.

      This points towards…

      Read more
    26. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff you really are a pain! I
      I have answered about times of earlier October bushfires in the Blue Mountains in earlier comments but you obviously missed them.

      The Statutory Bushfire Danger period for NSW is from 1 October to 31 March. That is the information the NSW Rural Fire Service also publish on their website and who state in addition "that some bushfire seasons are worse than others"..

      Articles reporting major bushfires during October or earlier in the Blue Mountains can be found as…

      Read more
    27. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      Very droll Mr Reynolds.

      Let me briefly say that I initially wrote a vindictive response to your email but I decided, probably at my cost and to no benefit, that I will not be drawn by your comments. I want to achieve a Habermasian styled discussion directed towards truth and not with the aim of 'winning'.

      Now it would be to my strategic advantage to observe that I have checked the sources identified in your comments but found little evidence to support your claims. I don't have the resources…

      Read more
    28. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Mr. Pain you are now accusing me of aggression after earlier accusing Ken Swanson of the same thing above in the relation to this article and subject. Seems you are a serial transgressor. I I just regard you as dopey! How did the family get the name Payne or is it something they visited on you when you were born?

      The dates of the newspaper articles I referred to with dates in August and September were regarding bushfires in the Blue Mountains at the time of the articles concerned, ie., August…

      Read more
    29. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      The EVIDENCE supports my argument you fool. You have shown yourself time and again in this thread to be an aggressive bafoon. The Greeks called people like you 'barbarian'. They were people who were not considered equal and therefore not worthy of engaging in reasonable debate. I should have recognised this earlier. You are both arrogant and ignorant and I would not, on that ground, be surprised if you egoistic claims are not true. Keep to your spin and you'll never be shown to yourself to be wrong. Everyone else I hope will sees you for who you are. I leave it to others, not that anyone is reading, to make their own judgement. Unlike you, I don't think truth belongs to me but it is a judgment for others. The most disappointing thing is that there are interesting arguments you should have made but were incapable of making. I am laughing my a#@se off!

      report
    30. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Dear painful. You tried to be clever and you were way out of your depth.

      See if you can get a refund for your PhD and other tertiary qualifications you claim to have either under your States "Goods Act" or the Federal "Trade Practices Act" where things have to be fit for purpose or the contract is void.

      You say "you are laughing your arse off".

      The rest of us "The Conversation' readers laugh and talk through our mouths and the big organ nearby that we rely on is called our brain. We can all guess what yours is now.

      report
  1. Peter Ormonde
    Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Farmer

    I'm surprised Abbott didn't just put the whole business of government (which essentially this is) over to the IPA. But it's obvious that the 'waste and mismanagement' will all be Labor's while his planned waste and mismanagement is sacrosanct. Like nobbling your horse in the fifth at the Wollibuddha Picnic Races.

    Careful with hurling tags like "economic rationalist" about. Economic rationalism suggests Joe knows or understands the slightest principles of economics. No evidence of that whatsoever…

    Read more
  2. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    Perhaps Ta will outsource the whole of government to his business pals and then the LNP can take trips aplenty to anywhere and everywhere.

    I can imagine a postcard from Rio -

    "having a great time, hope the country is OK - p.s....send more money".

    report
  3. Ronald Ostrowski

    logged in via Facebook

    The first step will be to sell the few remaining family jewels, starting with Medicare Private and Australia Post. According to the Finance Minister, Cormann, this sell off may no longer be used to pay off debt as promised by the LNP before the election. I also suspect the IPA wish list may also get very serious consideration from this group. As a fiscal conservative myself when it comes to the Howardesque largess to middleclass welfare I sense that these self-proclaimed LNP economic management legends will add to the bludgeoning structural deficit we inherited from Howard. Yep, we will very soon become the caravan thrash of the growing region, where the privileged few, like rich mums getting $75,000 to have a baby, get the bulk of the tax revenue while nation building infrastructure suffers. Happy days, folks.

    report
    1. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Ronald Ostrowski

      You forgot the ABC. That should be sold as it has never represented the views or values of the more than half of the population that for the LNP.

      report
    2. Ronald Ostrowski

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Like travel rorts, where they jump up and down about Slipper's $900, but dance at weddings on courtesy of the taxpayer, the LNP darlings see no ethical issue with the taxpayer funding their own propaganda machine - the ABC. Currently, ABC24 in particularly acts as an outpost of News Ltd, but with privately owned media outlets you never know about their future political leanings. At least with a LNP politicised ABC they have a guaranteed Pravda on their hands.

      report
    3. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Ronald Ostrowski

      Agree on the travel rorts.

      My favourite was the slew of ministers, MPs and staffers that went to Bob Hawke's Birthday. No LNP people attended that one. You remember, that was when the bikini clad female came on to the stage with a John Howard mask on her head. The ALP boys and girls thought it was hilarious. Not sexist at all, because only Tony Abbott is sexist we all know that.

      Funny how that one has not been reported by Fairfax or the ABC yet.

      The LNP will never politicise the ABC. Too…

      Read more
    4. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Yes, its Un-oostraylin to have any media not owned by gina and rupert.

      Personally, i cant stand commercial tv, brain dead dribblings from creativity challenged marko-bots.

      report
    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      Robert, any time someone tells me that the private sector is reliable better and more productive than the public, I simply ask them if they have ever watched television.

      report
  4. Tony Simons

    Director at Bedlam Bay Pty Ltd

    The Audit Commission must review Abbott's PPL monstrosity and look at using the money wasted into more childcare. The billions going into top private schools must be wound back and the money reallocated to the poorest public schools (many have now lost money under Gonski. MP expenses wound back and put on line to give real time scrutiny.

    report
    1. Martin Connolly

      Managing Director

      In reply to Tony Simons

      Trouble is Tony - who really benefits from the scheme? - big business that already has benefits in place. They will save money. I 'd bet that PPL won't rate a mention

      report
    1. Ron Bowden

      Entropy tragic

      In reply to Jack Ruffin

      Balance? Good lord, Jack. What about me then. I've got no balance, no qualifications, no anything much. I'd be ideal in this company.

      report
    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ron Bowden

      I've got a spare spirit level in the shed I'd be happy to lend you, Ron. It would be great to have you on the audit team!

      report
    3. Ron Bowden

      Entropy tragic

      In reply to john davies

      Gee thanks, John. But Team North would discombobulate me completely. I think I must regretfully withdraw my nomination.

      report
    4. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      I would second Ken Henry, Stephen, but I'm not sure about the rest.

      report
    5. Ron Bowden

      Entropy tragic

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Thanks, Felix. I have two of them but never knew how to use them. I'll be a shoo-in eh?

      report
    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ron Bowden

      Well, if balance was all that was required, Blind Freddy with one leg cut off would probably beat this field!

      report
  5. Darren Kay

    Private trader

    Maslow: 'If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail'.

    Someone who represents business interests and who has been a lobbyist for business interests - it's not difficult to predict where they might find savings.

    report
    1. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Darren Kay

      Audit commissions, reviews and the like usually turn out to result in cutting public service jobs (usually with the Feds it’s an across the board percentage with natural attrition (a very scientific process that one) or the disbanding of complete departments as already begun in climate change affiliated ones and soon to be done with the NBN), drying up of government handouts to the unfortunate (already started with the bus fire subsidies no longer applying to people forced out of their homes for…

      Read more
    2. Darren Kay

      Private trader

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      You forgot to mention the outsourcing of scientific advice as a valuable cost saving. Greg Hunt has taken 'science off the table' and has no need for the Climate Commission now that he has discovered Wikipedia.

      In fact, why bother establishing an Audit Commission where there's already an authoritative body providing policy recommendations known as the IPA?

      report
    3. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Darren Kay

      the illusion of respectability and independence, after all, it's the perception not the truth that counts

      report
    4. Darren Kay

      Private trader

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      Agreed. And expect TA to pick and choose which recommendations to implement based on his ideology and political pragmatism (admittedly following Labor's example with respect to the Henry Tax Review).

      report
  6. David Menere

    part-time contractor

    Standard stuff so far.

    PM appoints a committee from the Big End of Town. Business community is happy because they feel they've been listened to. Committee produces a report that is broad, and pretty much a business ambit claim, dressed up with cherry-picked bits of economic rationalism. PM thanks Committee. Smiles all round.

    The main short-term risk is that the Committee gets greedy and discredits itself by demanding too much- the ordure thus created would rub off on the Government. But this…

    Read more
    1. David Menere

      part-time contractor

      In reply to john davies

      I'm actually surprised that the BCA was offered, and allowed itself to take on the Chair position. An independent chair would make the Commission itself look more impartial and much more salable. Maybe the PM is indulging his inner Machiavelli. Perhaps the BCA should ask itself why it has been allowed to take on this role.

      Given the other members of the Committee and the Secretariat, the BCA would probably get very much the same result if it only had a 'standard' seat on the committee, without…

      Read more
  7. Alan John Hunter

    Retired

    "As things stand Abbott is hedged in by many commitments – and one of his mantras is the importance of keeping his word"

    Why pray tell would he do that?, he has never worried about it before, in fact the electorate expect it and would be disappointed if he didn't. Libs expect him to break on stuff he has promised and they don't like, and Labs know he will.

    report
    1. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Alan John Hunter

      they say consistency is a virtue, but they also say guilt is a virtue too, or at least those steeped in Catholic dogma do.. wait.. T Abbott....

      report
    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      I always liked Tom Carlisle's observation that 'consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds'. However, while I'm not necessarily too distraught over people changing their minds (particularly as Keynes once noted, in the face of changed evidence) it would be nice if their decisions WERE actually based on evidence and carried out impartially in the best interests of the nation.

      report
  8. Pat Moore

    gardener

    "Should a lobby group chair the Audit Commission"? It's an IPA pre-ordained Real Solution anyway. Now THAT's a "lobby group"....more exactly the corporatizing consultancy agency with the agenda. We're "open for business" don't forget. The real action's behind the dusty old stage props.

    Meaningless rubber stamp. Trying to appear to look the part, to appear feasible, which it doesn't anyway with that cast of characters who have seen better days, like the collection of oddbods on an "Are…

    Read more
    1. Lee Emmett

      Guest House Manager

      In reply to Pat Moore

      This same particular photo reminds me of a cover of 'Mad Magazine' from my teen years! It's nice to remember the funny side of life, sometimes, in these dark, secretive days of a new government.

      report
    2. Pat Moore

      gardener

      In reply to Lee Emmett

      Oh yeah Lee, I remember that big eared, freckle faced boy well. Did he have a name?

      Looking at that excellent shot of Bianca De Marchi's again....a picture telling a thousand words if ever there was one, I'm reminded also of that pre-election suppository of knowledge issue. He's looking a little strained, drained and yellow of gills.

      I also wonder about the issue of mass deception....is that considered a sin capable of absolution by his spiritual advisor? { Out damned Spot? (& take Nip & Fluff with you) } And if so, will he ever repent? Isn't God watching and taking notes? Does he have a conscience?

      report
    3. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Pat Moore

      It is a big conundrum for those of us not into theology to be able to decide between what constitutes a liar (as understood by Abbott supporters as in Juliar when Julia had the misfortune to have Alan Jones rant at her over the Carbon tax and incidentally being late to his show) http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/alan-jones-lets-rip-at-juliar-gillard-20110225-1b7km.html “So you understand, Julia, that you are the issue today, because there are people now saying your name is not Julia…

      Read more
  9. Ron Bowden

    Entropy tragic

    There seems to be an expectation (in some quarters) that this audit will be non partisan and fair minded.

    Are we quite sure that the conclusions and recommendations are not appended to the terms of reference?

    report
  10. R. Ambrose Raven

    none

    In their Commission of Audit (sponsored by the BCA), Abbott the Hun and Hockey the Hatchet-man want to make sure the audit is “captured” by the desired constituency, namely BIG BUSINESS. Note that its brief “is to recommend savings that would be enough to deliver a surplus of 1% of GDP before 2023-24…. but must “come to terms with the appropriate size of government”.

    Abbott the Hun and Hockey the Hatchet-man will impose brutal austerity on society and especially on the most vulnerable and…

    Read more
    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ron Bowden

      I think you both said pretty much the same thing - just in refereshingly different ways!

      report
  11. Michael Hay

    retired

    Is there no one in the Federal Government that actually has a concept of Governance? They should not require someone else to advise them, they should resign and let the Committee of Audit take over !

    report
    1. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Michael Hay

      I respect your sentiments Michael, it does appear that for all the education and the winning of awards these pollies have acieved, they do not appear to have a clue when it actually comes down to it. But no they would have to call another election. We know big business will run this government if it continues how it is, but we have to cop that. We elected them, but we can't give up on democracy yet, even though fascism seems to be an ever present courting partner.

      report
    2. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Not quite, Felix. I fully approve the Government -of -the -day seeking advice from various experts in all sorts of fields as no one person can be expected to be all-knowledgeable. But to heave its responsibilities wholesale to a group of businessmen who would appear to have no expertise in human relations is restricting the purpose of governance.

      report
    3. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Chris, it all gets back to our forefathers having selected the Westminster System as a model for our governance. We are an egalitarian society and we never needed to introduce the class-ridden societal structure of England as a base for governments.
      Political parties have always begun with policies and dogmas long before they looked at society as a unit and so we are governed by a series of remote ideologies which are imposed upon us. This is not governance by the people.
      I think it was Aristotle who promoted all people having an equal voice and while that is a physical impossibility, it does follow that perhaps a parliament of independents may provide a more reasonable form of administration than one based on ideologies from a past age.

      report
    4. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Hay

      Ooh there are some striking differences between ourselves and the off-the-peg Westminster System Michael - not the least our voting system, our decisive rejection of any House of Lords - the Bunyip Aristocracy and a score others ....

      Our founding fathers - yep all blokes - seemed to go out of their to pick the best and most flexible bits of the English system but dumped large slabs that entrenched privilege, wealth and status.

      There's a particularly excellent piece here that highlights the differences which are growing more significant year by year. http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Senate/Research_and_Education/hamer/chap02

      We've got ourselves a far far better system than the original and also the US 'elected king' arrangement.

      report
  12. Lee Emmett

    Guest House Manager

    While Tony Abbott is off volunteering and having his photo taken at the wheel of a fire truck, the task of driving the national budget will be shepherded by big business and their cronies!

    Tony Abbott hived off responsibility for asylum seekers policies to the military 3-star general in a transparent effort to keep his hands clean.

    'Operation sovereign borders' is a deliberate sleight of hand: it is a craftily composed strategy, with a catchy slogan, which attempts to demonise or ignore the…

    Read more
    1. Ron Bowden

      Entropy tragic

      In reply to Lee Emmett

      Well said, Lee.

      While Abbott and his flat earth coalition haven't been caught out verbalising their contempt (like Mitt Romney) for ordinary voters, they're acting it out quite well. Almost everything they do reinforces what you've said.

      report
    2. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Lee Emmett

      Good post Lee as usual.

      Abbott rather than having a mandate achieved just 52% of the vote to Labor's 48%. That means it took just two voters out of every hundred to be fooled by his deceit and the unrelenting support of the Murdoch media to deliver him Government. Unfortunately It is not hard to find two block headed bogans out of every hundred people in our Society who are susceptible to three word slogans over substance.

      Now the slogans have had to stop, he has no idea what to do so his team run away and hide, or shudder at the thought of being exposed for more thefts from the public purse. You can never trust a liar on anything.

      report
    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Lee Emmett

      " After all Tony Abbott's and Joe Hockey's hysteria about 'debt, deficits and budget emergencies' the Audit panel is asked to 'deliver a surplus of 1% of GDP before 2023-24'. Where has the crisis gone "
      Well, at least the topic of the article does get a mention Lee and perhaps you might just think of what future a guest house or any other business can have if it is continuously operating in a mode where expenditures are far in excess of income.
      An Owner might decide on some more dramatic knee jerk…

      Read more
    4. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg this really is a tired argument. Business people operate frequently on business loans, the majority of us who own a home have a mortgage. It's true the business owner must eventually make a profit in order to keep going but there do appear to be exceptions to this rule with some enterprises like The Australian newspaper appearing to manage quite well without the benefit of obvious advertising revenue. The Australian government on the other hand has regular weekly and daily income from our…

      Read more
    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      You can think of it as tired Chris and yet as you say businesses must eventually get on top of their borrowing by having sufficient profit making to cover capital and interest, ditto for a home owner or you know what happens.
      " As to the " excess expenditure over revenue just keeps growing and growing" we don't know that do we? "
      You only have to have a look at the previous Labor government and just about everyone for decades before.
      So we have a AAA rating, fat good if we have a government that does not want to address the balance, most of our borrowing right now going into expenditure for policies that are nought to do with infrastructure.
      Why you would think what we have now is different to what we were told prior to the election, I have no idea for the reason the government is getting the audit done is all about what we were told in the election campaign.
      If you want to believe otherwise, so be it.

      report
    6. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Greg North

      So we should raise taxes to balance our current expenditure and put our borrowings into infrastructure.

      report
    7. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Hay

      Expenditure will always include capital and interest to be repaid and without sustained revenue to cover that so as to avoid forever increasing borrowing, any organisation will eventually be in trouble.
      That said, if a case can be put up for infrastructure to pay for the financial cost, borrowing on that will be better than just borrowing for extra beer money.

      report
  13. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    It hardly matters who the audit team is Michelle and more so important is going to be getting the right budgetary balance for the future and identification of waste, overlap with states and doing things more efficiently and effectively are part of the equation.
    The leftist supporters might think that borrowing can go on endlessly and in their blindness remain ignorant of what Labor have done and what cannot continue.

    report
    1. Ron Bowden

      Entropy tragic

      In reply to Greg North

      “It hardly matters who the audit team is...”

      Wow! What kind of squeal from team north would there be if the audit team was comprised of the old Labor club instead of Liberal?

      This nasty government we have elected wants only its own snouts in the trough – and then Abbott accuses Labor of appointing 'friends' to voluntary positions, while at the same time appointing neoliberal big business mateys to handle its Commission of Audit.

      What hypocrisy!

      You should go straight to your dealer, Greg, and demand your money back. You're on a bad trip.

      report
    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ron Bowden

      No chance on Laborites Ron for you know what their financial track record is, inscribed into stone they have been doing it for long enough.
      You could add " as long as they are business minded people who can understand why a government just like a business needs to be run effectively ".
      It is certainly never that with most Labor people and you only have to have a look at the comments earlier on to see the mind set of Laborites.

      report
    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg North

      Now now 'Mr North" we've already explored your curious little ideas about the housekeeping money and how the economy should be run like a shop.... but you persist with these absurdly ignorant notions of commonsense economics ... guess it saves having to do any study or get a handle on how an economy actually works.

      Now I've heard on the grapevine that Joe Hockey is looking for an economic advisor ... why not stick you hat in the ring Greg ... I'd love to watch.

      report
    4. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Greg North

      Dear Dopey! I presume you would call the Australian Newspaper a business? It is owned by the Coalition's most strident supporter, Rupert Murdoch and has been published since 1975 and never shown a profit.

      If you are silly enough to play the share market Dopey, you will see your money disappear. I have yet to find the mysterious person who started off just investing in the share market and made a fortune. If businessmen were all as clever as you represent Dopey, then the share market index would…

      Read more
    5. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Ron Bowden

      I think the Reynolds tirade must have got through because, apart from the derogatory bits, it has some sound information. We DO need to raise taxes in order to feed our expenditure.
      Personally, I prefer a Flat Tax, with help for the bottom earners and a small slug for the top ones. The only deduction is for wages paid.
      But that would upset a lot of voters so it will never happen and we shall continue to yell at one another about things politicians cannot change.
      Maybe we need a benevolent dictatorship for five years !.

      report
    6. Ron Bowden

      Entropy tragic

      In reply to Michael Hay

      Of course you're right re taxes, Michael. I'm not against the notion of a flat tax, but I'd like to see a well reasoned analysis of it.

      I think we might expect a benevolent dictatorship around the time of the second coming...

      report
    7. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Michael Hay

      Well Michael again we don't know. The previous labor government promised a return to surplus in 2016 now the LNP is talking about ten yeas beyond that, so to assume we are presently living beyond our means is not as important as they made out. In what way does a flat tax with help for the bottom earners and a small slug for the top ones differ from a progressive tax that we have now in place?
      If you are thinking in terms of Beneto Mussolini (he certainly was the great hero of the capitalist countries at the time) that would certainly fit in with the persona that Abbott is attempting to project. The trouble with a Mussolini was he had too much hubris, which of course we are seeing echoed in Abbott and that left him open to an unwinnable relationship with a Hitler.

      report
    8. Ella Miller

      retired

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      So the Liberal government will pay each member of the Audit group $1500 per day... not a bad pay if you can get it.
      What a waste!
      $1500 per day per member when the Public Service could do the job....Cost ? I am sure it would not be $1500 per day.

      Why?
      So the Liberal Government could pass the buck for the what it wants to do on to the Audit Com.
      ...and they know already what they want to do....
      I bet London to a brick on that we will be able to match up the recommendations with the 75 point wish list given to the Liberal government before the election.

      $1500 a day it is more tan the school kids bonus for a child a year!!!!

      Shameful....
      to try to hoodwink us that it is not the Liberal Gov that wants to cut..scrap...etc...
      Lies before the election more lies now.

      report
    9. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Ella Miller

      The trick of it is to worry you with small, petty cuts that are mean and cruel so that by the time of the big cuts you will be emotionally exhausted and disaffected and have already walked away in disgust and will say nothing. Hang in Ella. It is a war of attrition, they are good at it. We have lives elsewhere it is tempting to walk, but they stalked the previous government and deserve the same.

      report
    10. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Ron Bowden

      Perhaps you and I could form a duplex dictatorship - we could wipe out all politicians and employ more public servants. I would dearly like The Conversation to take up your challenge for a "Reasoned analysis" in relation to a Flat Tax.
      Why is it that no one person can attempt such a thing ?

      report
    11. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Chris, the main, if the whole, purpose of a minimalistic Flat Tax is to counteract the tendency of most taxpayers to rort the system.
      The simpler the taxation rules, the less ability to evade paying the specified level of taxation. Hence the need to have 'wages paid' as the only tax deductible item of expenditure. Any other variations would be designed to help where needed and penalise if required, but these are aberrations to the the principle of creating an equal burden across all walks of life and all variations of income.
      As for Mussolini, he does not appear in my picture - I fear I am much more of a Socialist than he ever was !

      report
  14. Subhasis Sen

    Accountant, Auditor, Financial Manager

    This audit, like all others before it, will serve the interests of the people who appointed it. And that is true for any audits.
    It is imperative that the audit team, in its quest for savings do not recommend making unsustainable cuts i..e. cuts that would only dampen the economy in the long run. One case in point is the stated effort to cut the aid budget. As someone who has been working in this space in a neighboring country, I find it very unrealistic to cut the aid budget across the board. Many of the neighbors are reliant on this support and to remove that support will be counterproductive.
    It is in everyone's interest to see that the audit recommendations are practical, cost-effective and, above all, sustainable.

    report
    1. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Subhasis Sen

      Subhasis, I took a firm or auditors to Court over falsified accounts as a banker that they knew we were relying on an had confirmed to me the accounts were completed in terms of Australian accounting standards. The auditors falsified the stock records by increasing the value of old stock that resulted in the company showing a modest profit for the year instead of a massive loss.

      We were able to obtain the stock book from the company which showed where the auditors had whited out the company's…

      Read more
    2. Subhasis Sen

      Accountant, Auditor, Financial Manager

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      That's good news Terry. Fiddling with inventories has been a common source of book profit for long long time. But not sure why the auditors would use their own men to change the figures manually, when, they could have had the clients' personnel to do it.

      In the context of our original discussion, however, it would appear to be very difficult to bring a case against the auditors - should some inappropriate things come through their recommendations.

      report
    3. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Subhasis Sen

      Subhasis, the fact that the auditor,, in law, is only liable to the party that pays his fee, should be a timely warning to those who seek to rely on auditors reports whether in respect to corporate balance sheets, or on the audit of Government revenue and expenditure called by Abbott.

      We all know that Government revenue has been a long way below Government expenditure for five years now: and how to fix it. Hike the income taxes on those many well healed individuals on higher incomes who had their tax lowered by Costello and our budget thereafter into deficit,.

      report