By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra
TREASURER Joe Hockey will today reveal the release date for the much anticipated Commission of Audit report, as he does more softening up for a tough budget.
The government has promised the report will be put out in plenty of time before the budget, which is on May 13.
In a major address, Hockey will outline the areas the commission has highlighted as pressure points for the budget into the future, which include health and pensions. But the specific recommendations from the commission will wait until the document is made public.
Hockey has been focusing for weeks in his rhetoric on areas of spending growth, as he prepares the ground for clamps in the pension and health areas.
The government is expected to raise the pension age to 70 but with a long lead time. It has indicated it may alter the indexation measure used to adjust the pension. In health it is working up a co-payment for visits to GPs, with this plan back before the expenditure review committee this week.
While much of the pre-budget speculation suggests various of Tony Abbott’s election commitments will be broken, his office insists that his promises will be kept.
The chairman of Abbott’s Business Advisory Council, Maurice Newman, is confident the PM will keep his promises.
Asked on the ABC’s Lateline whether Abbott should keep his pledge not to cut Medicare Locals and the ABC – both expected to face cuts – Newman said: “If the Prime Minister and the government made a commitment as an election promise, then my understanding is the Prime Minister and the government will keep those pledges.
“They believe in restoring trust to government.”
A former chairman of the ABC, Newman said the Australia Network – the future of which is under severe risk – should be congratulated for its recent deal with the Shanghai Media Group to get extensive access to Chinese audiences. “It’s a significant step forward towards ultimate landing rights.”
He described the Australia Network as “what we call soft power”. It was there “to promote Australia in a positive light”.
“So it is a positive for the country,” he said. But “from a government point of view, they have to weigh up whether or not the money can be spent better elsewhere”.
It was a “great tragedy” for the ABC and the Australia Network that the whole basis on which the current contract was awarded – under the Labor government – was so flawed.
Twice it had been won by another party – Sky – but then it was given to the ABC and this had left a bad taste. Australia Network , for all the good work it was doing, was suffering the legacy of that flawed process, which damaged the whole aura around the product.
He thought the contract should have been awarded to the ABC without a tender. But when it was put to tender and then eventually went to the ABC rather than the party that won, “you can’t be surprised that it left a lot of people feeling disenchanted”.
Newman said he continued to believe the ABC and SBS should be merged.
Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.