A long long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Spartacus was an economics student at the University of NSW. It was a different time then. A time when using the word “marriage” was not considered offensive.
But in other ways, things then were similar to things today. Back then, there was the cold war where the enemy was totalitarian socialism and communism as represented by the USSR. Today, it is still totalitarian socialism and communism, but now represented by the Australia Greens and parts of the other major parties. Back then, there was no internet, much like today if you live in an NBN area. Remarkably, electricity was (proportionately) cheaper and more reliable than today.
During his studies, Spartacus was introduced to something called the Pareto Principle:
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
For example, in business, often around 80% of revenues comes from around 20% of customers. Similarly, around 80% of your staff problems come from around 20% of your staff. There was also a time, a bit earlier though, when the private sector accounted for around 80% of the economy and the government sector 20%.
That last example was possibly not ideal as the proportions seem to be flipping with the government sector trending well away from 20% and well towards 80%.
Now seems the time, perhaps, that a new principle enter the idiolect – the Canberra Principle – whereby 80% of resources and attention are spent on 20% of things that matter. For example, Australia accounts for around 1% of global emissions but perhaps 90% of currently available political capital and oxygen expended on totally eliminating Australia’s emissions by killing the Australian economy.
In a similar way, public finances seem to follow the same way. When presenting a budget, Government’s tend to focus on perhaps 5-8 initiatives which account for perhaps 10-15% of outlays. Yet at the same time, there seems barely any interest in the remaining 85% of outlays. It’s just there and assumed appropriate.
Given the the size of the FY18 annual budget payments is scheduled at $460 billion (yes billion), perhaps equal attention is warranted for all of the spending, including the base $400 odd billion (yes billion).
At a time when this nation is facing serious challenges, domestically and internationally, what do we get? Is there a focus on productivity, national security or economic prosperity? Nope. How about some renewable energy, same sex marriage and the timing of Australia day.
Given the billions in taxes spent every year to the Canberra beast fed and afloat, one might have imagined that our political and bureaucratic leaders could walk and chew gum at the same time. It might surprise them to know that there is a difference between prioritisation and attention deficit disorder.
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