The federal government's Commission of Audit report will at last be released this afternoon. Dubbed Fightback Mk II by some in the Coalition (after the huge and politically unpalatable document John Hewson took to the "unloseable" 1993 election), the 900-page report is expected to recommend savings – such as raising the level of the GST – that the government has already ruled out.
In this sense the report is largely redundant. The government has had it for weeks and has already made its budget decisions. The report's main value to the government is in framing the national conversation on next month's budget. By rejecting the Commission's most savage recommendations, the government can expect to appear relatively moderate.
If this is the strategy, it's already working. Media reports are speculating on the Commission's recommendations, rather than, for instance, emphasising its terms of reference, which excluded the Commission from looking at Australia's tax concessions to wealthy superannuants and the fossil fuel industry, which the International Monetary Fund recommends cutting. Together, these cost taxpayers at least $45 billion every year.
It's very likely that instead of these concessions, the national conversation will continue to focus on why those who can least afford it – pensioners, low income earners and families – should tighten their belts in the national interest.
Russell Marks Politicoz Editor
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