May 8, 2014

How the ANAO ended up costing taxpayers billions in lost revenue

As the government contemplates restoring indexation of fuel excise, Crikey's former top bureaucrat explains what drove the Howard government to freeze it over a decade ago.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

It was a normal morning in March 2001. I received a phone call from my former department, Transport, from my replacement. Where, he wanted to know, had I put the 1998 incoming government briefs? He wanted to know urgently. As in, extremely urgently. As in, NOW.


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20 thoughts on “How the ANAO ended up costing taxpayers billions in lost revenue

  1. Yclept

    Well Bernard, if hypothecation is so ridiculous then so are the calls for “user pays” and sending “price signals” whenever it is clear that people are losing their lives on badly maintained and sub-standard roads.

    The user pays principle only seems to apply when it suits.

    And nobody said that hospitals and education spending should be cut, more that governments of all colours should get their act together so that they can be funded out of general revenue because we always seem to have billions to waste on concentration camps on far flung islands.

  2. Kfix

    While I agree with Bernard that the policy outcome was poor, surely the fault lies with the government(s) that broke the law instead of changing it, rather than the ANAO that pointed out the breakage?

  3. Simon Mansfield

    Let’s face it – be it defense procurement, currency policy, climate science, education or just the time of day – BK is simply an expert on every area of government, industry and science. And consequently should be appointed El President for life – the money saved by doing away with such a messy concept as democracy would easily pay for a dedicated nursing home just for BK when he’s no longer a fit and proper person to be El President for Life.

  4. Dolly

    Both Bob and I agree too that you are a “know all”, albeit a good one, but never the less, a “know all”.

    We often lay awake at night pondering how you became so knowledgeable. BoB and I understand that all knowledge is recyclable but it does have a point of origin. Was that the public service?

    We both feel that you may have missed your opportunity on our smash hit ” Pick a Box”. If it ever comes around again make sure you either choose ” BP Comprox Box ” or the ” BP Zoom Box “.

    Bob always stuck the money behind them two.

    Hugs & Kisses now

  5. CML

    I think it is Bernard’s job to be a ‘know-all’. I’m sure he has told us before that he worked for the C/W public service, so if he has knowledge directly related to this story, why wouldn’t he tell us?
    Apart from that, it was always obvious that Howard stuffed up the fuel excise decision that his government took in 2001, for political reasons. And yes, successive Labor governments didn’t do anything about it, mainly because it is regressive. This levy/tax, if re-introduced, will unfairly affect the poor and low-income cohort of the community far more than those further up the pecking order. Bit like the GST really.
    So what else is new? Just another broken promise/l+e from the masters of deception!

  6. Last Chance Cafe


    I personally really liked this article. It gives us a snap-shot of the political workings between public servants and politicians. That’s something we would never get to see if BK had not shared his experience with us.

    But I don’t think Simon Mansfield or “Dolly” if that’s her real name, actually meant any harm. They were just hamming it up, jesting, horsing around. I am sure BK would not take offense at their comments either..LoL..he’s got thicker skin than that.

    Great article!

  7. Drew Blue

    I have learnt a lot from your articles Bernard, over the years. Your in depth research and investigative journalism is of a quality not matched in Oz. I know that’s big call but I am calling it.

    But this “Try the cupboards outside the secretary’s office,” I lamely offered.”

    You knew damn well they were n’t there, did n’t you. Evil knows no bounds.

  8. AR

    Gonna make the carbon impost look miniscule, ain’t it? And the workers’ dormitories on the outskirts of the big cities who voted this lot in will be well pleased with their choice.

  9. Drew Blue


    ” whenever it is clear that people are losing their lives on badly maintained and sub-standard roads.”

    Is it sub-standed roads and bad maintenance that causes people to lose their lives or just poor driving habits and lack of care and personal responsibility.

    I get suspicious of govts of any persuasion that have excess focus on roads spending.

    They do it because it’s visible and easy to grandstand, as opposed to the more abstract and less visible spending that’s essential but does n’t catch votes.

    If the road you travel has a few potholes, get over it and just slow down.

  10. Andrew Blacker

    Interesting point Drew. It’s usually Big Industry who benefits from any major highway extension and maintenance but according to govt propaganda it’s for community.

    I am not even a Lefty and I can see that.

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