Commission identifies lotsa potential cuts

If you’re young, old, studying, have a disability, a family,  are an individual or under priveledged this budget mightn’t be good news. Jordyn Butler writes.

Today the Commission of Audit has released its recommendation for the Federal Budget with the aim of bringing the budget back into surplus.

The commission argues all of its recommendations could save the government 60 billion dollars each year by 2023-24.

This report is not the budget. The budget will be announced on May 13. It is however a recommendation for the economic plans of the Abbott Government. And its a good indicator as to what might happen. It’s the Warmest 100 to Triple J’s Hottest 100.

But who cares right?

You should. Because “winter is coming”, and with the “age of entitlement” over, “everyone” will feel the pain. (Catchy phrases courtesy of Treasurer Joe Hockey and George RR Martin – you guess which one is which). And unlike a lot of politicians, Hockey wasn’t lying!

So here is your cheat sheet:

What is the Commission of Audit?

The Commission of Audit is an authoritative, hefty report consisting of five very long volumes (that killed a whole lot of paper and is probably the reason why the government want to de-list the Heritage Listed Tasmanian Forrest for logging).

It is a financial document identifying government spending. Unsurprisingly, it says our federal government’s spending is not sustainable and advises where the government can make cuts.

The audit sets the scene for the budget. It essentially prepares people by pre-warning them of the dire financial situation in Australia. It’s the really, really bad news (so what the government can take away from Australians), before the really bad news (what the government actually takes away from Australians).

The audit found if the government continues to go the way it is, Australia will still be in the red in ten years time – with a 440 billion dollar net debt – without a safety net to cushion any blows in the future (otherwise known as a crisis buffer).

What does the Commission of Audit say about me?

Areas caught up in these recommendations include: aged pension, Disability Support Pension, Disability Insurance Scheme, Medicare Benefits Schedule, hospitals, Pharmaceutical Benefits, higher education, school funding, Family Tax Benefits, defence and foreign aid. These are all in the line of fire.

The commission made 86 recommendations. But we’ve got the lowdown in a convenient, neat headlined format (just if you didn’t have the time to read the 12,000 page document).

Are you old?

The audit recommends making it harder to get a Commonwealth Seniors Health or concession card. They also advised increasing the aged pension to 70 years. But don’t worry, they suggested to do it really slowly so it will happen by about 2053. They’re also suggesting you include the value of the family home in the age pension means test (from 2027-28)

Do you have a family?

They have suggested getting rid of middle class welfare by tightening the Family Tax Benefits scheme. The benefit costs 19 billion dollars and makes up close to 5 per cent of government spending, with 70 per cent of families eligible for the tax benefit. They also looked lowering the Paid Parental Leave Wage cap to average week earnings (which are currently $57 460.)

Are you studying?

The CA (Commission of Audit) is advising the government to increase the interest on your HECs/HELP debt. It also suggests a lower the minimum annual salary threshold would save the government more money. So when you earn more than $32, 354  (as opposed to the previous $51 309 per year) in your first year out of university in a graduate job you’ll be expected to pay back your HECS/HELP.

Are you single and work for peanuts?

If this recommendations gets the approval, you single guys and dolls under the age of 30 would be required to relocate to a higher employment area after 12 months if you’ve been receiving benefits. They have also proposed changes to the minimum wage, lowering growth so it is equal to 44% of average weekly earnings. So basically they want to lower the minimum wage so it is less than peanuts.

Do you have a disability or are you sick?

Slightly good news. While the government signalled bulkbilling would be a thing of the past, the audit has suggested co-payments for Medicare funded services. But you’ll now have to pay 15 dollars per visit andconcession card-holders will pay 5 dollars. Also Pharmaceutical co-payments will increase from $36.90 to $41.90.

Do you like the environment?

Goodbye government bodies such as Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Climate Change Authority and Low Carbon Australia Limited.

Speaking of government bodies? Do you work for one?

The commission have target 99 government bodies. It has suggested seven be dismantled; the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, the Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation and Innovation Investment Funds Investments Pty Ltd.

They advised releasing billions of dollars by privatising government bodies such as Australian Hearing Services, Snowy Hydro Limited, Defence Housing Australia, Australian Postal Corporation, Moorebank Intermodal Company Limited, Australian Rail Track Corporation Limited, the Royal Australian Mint, COMCAR and in the future (once it actually works) NBN Co Limited.

It has also recommended defining, phasing out, abolishing or cutting funding for 22 existing industry assistance programmes. Advising some of the government roles and functions could be outsourced.

As for the ABC and SBS – It did not specify. However it did say they need to be more efficient.

Are you Indigenous?

The Commission Audit recommends rationalising Indigenous-specific programmes, bodies, committees, councils and boards. It basically suggested the existing 150 Indigenous programmes and activities should be consolidated into no more than six or seven.

So, what now?

Whether or not any of these recommendations will be incorporated into the federal budget on May 13 is unknown. But just because the government can do it doesn’t mean they should. Some of these recommendations would be political suicide.

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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