Abbott’s Important Initiative on Budget

The lead report below in today’s Australian  (below) reflects an important initiative by Abbott. I say this not in any expectation that the imminent international meeting of the G20 will reach a meaningful agreement on improving the performance of public sector health and education services in  85% of world economies.

But the inclusion in the G20 agenda of the need for improved performance of public health and education services is likely to produce in principle support from the group and will allow Abbott to use that domestically. In short, this is a potentially clever use of international meetings for domestic advantage.

More importantly, it also provides an indication that Abbott  is continuing to push for support for reductions in spending in the Budget, including the May one next year. For the recovery of political credibility after the last twelve months’ mishandling of the budget it is important that the Prime Minister play a bigger role and that the Mid Year Review (MYEFO) better explain the rationale for reducing the eligibility of middle and higher income groups for social welfare assistance. It is absurd that a couple with an income of $100,000 a year or more could have access to some government assistance provisions ie subsidies from other taxpayers. For example, the case for such income groups making co-payments for “normal” medical services  and for contributing to university fees for their children is obvious. It needs to be told  more clearly and with more vigour.

Another important development yesterday (and carried further today) in the move to a fairer (and more rational) economy is the apparent “campaign” started by the Financial Review against union corruption as revealed in the conclusions presented by the counsel assisting the Royal Commission, Jeremy Stoljar. These were outlined in my commentary and its attachments yesterday  (see HR Nicholls Press Release on Submission to Royal Commission on the IPE’s web). This “campaign” included an article drafted by me at the request of the opinion page editor of the Fin Review (see article below on “A skewed bargaining process just invites corruption”).

The Fin Review has carried this further today with a front page lead entitled “Murray goes after union super” (this refers to the review of the Financial System by the former Commonwealth Bank head) and an editorial entitled “Get super out of IR system”. The editorial, which is repeated below, points out that “there are glaring deficiencies in the governance structure of the industry superannuation funds” and claims the “revelations of the royal commission … are alarming”.

Some will recall that the former Secretary of the Treasury, Bernie Fraser, appeared quite frequently in TV ads praising industry super funds. So far Fraser has had nothing to say about the conclusions reached by counsel to the Royal Commission (Fraser continues however as Labor appointed head of the Climate Change Authority which survived abolition under the deal on Direct Action between Palmer and Environment Minister Hunt).

More importantly, assuming that these revelations by counsel are confirmed by Commissioner Heydon in his report next month, it will be difficult for Abbott to avoid taking legislative action to deal with it.

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