Heavy on warnings that “business as usual” will leave future generations of Australians saddled with excessive debt, the National Commission of Audit has delivered the government a comprehensive platform for deep spending cuts and significant policy reform.
The Commission, which focused its recommendations on the 15 largest and fastest growing government programs, has made 86 recommendations with the aim of returning the budget to a sustainable surplus of one per cent of GDP by 2023-24.
The recommendations, which if carried out, would deliver the government an estimated savings of A$60-$70 billion per year within 10 years and would hit multiple government programs, including pensions, health, family benefits, defence, school funding, higher education, aged care, foreign aid, housing and industry assistance.
Big-ticket items include: gradually increasing the eligibility age for the age pension to 70; cutting family benefits; deregulating higher education fees; changes to the minimum wage; $15 co-payments for all Medicare-funded services; significant public service and industry assistance cuts; slowing down the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme; and the benchmarking of the ABC against SBS when determining funding.
Commission chair Tony Shepherd said without change, Australia would end up with 16 years of budget deficits and little to help it cope with an economic downturn. “If we don’t fix the Budget, Australia will have little or no buffer to meet future economic and financial shocks,” Shepherd said.
The Commission has also recommended abolishing seven government bodies, including the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Climate Change Authority and the Export Finance Insurance Corporation.
It recommends merging of 35 bodies, consolidation into other departments of 22, and the privatisation of nine government agencies, including Australia Post, the Royal Australian Mint and NBN Co.