IT seems Joe Hockey just hates Canberra, hasn’t much time for those hippies and their renewable energy and has even less time for the poor. The Commission of Audit is not government policy – that will come with the Budget. However, the government established the Commission to get the result it wanted.The government’s rhetoric and the Commission of Audit report focus on two things: Australia’s debt and where cuts can be made. What they both fail to do is attempt to understand or explain the real costs or benefits associated with taking the meat axe to the public service, to social service benefits, to health and to superannuation – to name just a few. It is a financial approach rather than an economic approach.
Additionally, none of the proposals being floated have given any detail on how they might get the really wealthy to shoulder more of the burden. While the mining industry is subsidised to the tune of $4 billion through things such as the fuel rebate, roads, rail and other infrastructure while the Treasurer tells a Sydney radio station: “I find those wind turbines around Lake George to be utterly offensive and I think they are just a blight on the landscape”.
He went on to bemoan his inability to remove the minor, contracted subsidies on renewable energy systems.
McGannon and Daley, from the Grattan Institute, have pointed out that if the whole of the Department of Health was abolished the savings would be “less than half a billion dollars a year”.
The impact on the ACT economy would be devastating. Health manages key national strategies in relation to communicable diseases, immunisation, mental health, alcohol and other drugs just to name a few examples where a very short-term gain could be an economic and community disaster.
The Commonwealth is responsible for primary health care. If this part of the structure is weakened, people transition to much more expensive forms of care. The co-payment for attending a GP will push some from primary health care weakening the system. Patients will either avoid going to the doctor or turn up with minor ailments at already overburdened hospital emergency departments.
Hockey’s approach, as indicated by government announcements to date, is a narrow, short-term view providing savings to the Commonwealth and greatly increasing the burden to the States and Territories. But the same people pay tax in both jurisdictions.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,” said Nazi Germany’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.
Despite our triple AAA credit-rated economy, there is a sense that our country’s finances are out of control. The warning to Hockey should be in the next line from Goebbels: “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie”.