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Auditing the audit

By Conrad Liveris - posted Friday, 2 May 2014

There is a lot of commentary and hyperbole on the Commission of Audit. Above all else, the report has gifted us an opportunity to discuss what we want our nation to look like. Not today nor tomorrow, but in the medium and long terms. Advice ordered on the grounds of efficacy and largely within the bounds of a philosophy was always going to be questionable.

Joe Hockey always aimed to be a more liberal Treasurer, and that might be the thing we need. This Audit gives us a chance to discuss what our vision for Australia is in 20 or 30 years' time. Many have been asking exactly this of our politicians.

I cannot help but think that the Commission has missed an opportunity to discuss our opportunities for wider efficiency and productivity. To have a more effective government we cannot pretend to live as if it acts in isolation.


Having a more efficient and agile public service should be the intention of every government. Eliminating wasteful and duplicate spending is central to that – but the aim should not be to merely close things down, but on how we can get the best for our tax dollars.

Tony Abbott is right in claiming that government should fill the gaps where industry and community organisations cannot. That does not mean that we limit access to services.

Our government should look towards growing our economy and expanding opportunity above all else, and not the potential cutting of 15,000 public service staff.

If the age of entitlement is over, I did not realise we were living in it. A myriad of policies are being mooted to make sure that we do not feel as if we are living in entitlement. The Medicare co-payment would be the most controversial and it looks like it will go ahead in one form or another. It is morally curious to impose this payment on those in need.

The Commission has been very light on how the government can foster growth through its programs. If enacted in this form, which we have been assured requires "courage", I fail to see where the efficiency comes from.

The savings are glaringly obvious, but there is only so much efficiency when you have less human capital at your disposal. Australia needs a strategy for how using the public service to collaborate with industry and increase growth and jobs. That is part of how we will decrease the debt.


Treasury should consider how we can attack inefficient taxes. While we are a low taxing economy, we are still burdened with inept and wasteful taxes. These create big government and limit economies. While the Henry Tax Review has largely been left to the bookcases of parliament, it offered salient options for how we can have a more effective tax system.

This report has been far too narrow for it to have wide-application. Sure, the public service is a large beast but these proudly public declarations should be relevant and applicable to the economy and community beyond the news that some people should not have their job or that taxes are too high.

Where was the discussion on building ties with China? Surely the government has a role to play there. We know that opportunity is there for the taking but Australian industry has a massive knowledge gap on how to work and capitalise on China and Asia, working on that should be a national priority.

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About the Author

Conrad Liveris is a Community Advocate and Operations Analyst, working in business development and policy with a focus on gender equality and intergenerational issues.

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