It’s Crikey’s audit of the Commission of Audit: Bernard Keane on the messy politics, Cathy Alexander on the stuff in the too-hard basket, Stephen Bartos on the public service and Myriam Robin on the swift media reaction. Plus the volunteers running Cathy McGowan’s office. Television shows and internet buzz. And Guy Rundle on Martin Creed in London.
It’s a good day to be a lobbyist. Almost everyone has something to yell about.
Perhaps what’s most surprising about the delivery of the Commission of Audit yesterday was how little the federal government said about it. Here are radical recommendations to slash welfare and hike taxes, banish the poor and retired, end universal healthcare, realign education and fundamentally reshape the federation just hanging in the air; horrified howls from opposition MPs and interest groups ringing out across the nation, media rounding on the government like never before …
But Tony Abbott was largely content to let it play out. The government isn’t ruling things in or out, it said. Wait for the budget, it said. These are “courageous” suggestions that deserve debate.
In some cases, it is the debate we need to have. This is what we always say we want from government, remember: big-picture thinking rising above electoral reality. That a new government should commission hard heads outside Parliament, amid a phase of economic recovery, to make suggestions on the path to greater prosperity is nothing but an admirable exercise.
But Abbott never framed this right. He’d already played the “rule-in-or-out” game before the election, severely limiting the scope of any audit. He defiantly stuck by introducing expensive new policies while scrapping revenue-raising old ones. And he stacked the audit team with business lobbyists and economic rationalists so divorced from political reality that any real reform debate has been disastrously muddied.
The result is a document that helps nobody but the government’s enemies.