Australia’s policy dice is loaded in favour of more spending and regulation. Major expansions in recent years have been on education, people with disabilities, the national broadband network (NBN) and renewable energy.
Even those rare politicians who are genuinely concerned about excessive spending are reluctant to oppose those lobbying for such measures and the votes they promise. Nonetheless an injection of personal responsibility would be useful even if limited to the most egregious and misleading programs politicians have introduced – the NBN and solar rooves being cases in point – just as business leaders pay a personal price for deceit of shareholders.
I have a piece in the Herald Sun today (“How to cut $26 billion in government spending without even trying”) where I point to the progress towards a better budget balance having been overwhelmingly driven by revenue increases; the agreed savings in a $460 billion a year budget comprise a mere “rounding error” of 0.02 per cent.
Easy progress can be made to a budget balance, or equivalent savings, even without markedly touching the sacrosanct Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) spending responsible for two thirds of the total outlays. Programs identified are
- $1.4 billion by giving the ABC and SBS to their controlling worker-collectives, leaving them, like other media, to find willing payers for their services.
- all but emergency foreign aid, which rarely brings benefits other than to consultants and corrupt politicians, saving $3 billion.
- Largely eliminate the agriculture and industry departments and their associated programs, none of which actually produce anything, and save a further $4 billion.
- Drastically reduce Commonwealth spending on schools, environment, housing (all of which simply duplicate state functions) and save $12 billion.
- End all Commonwealth subsidies and spending on renewables and other energy to save $4.5 billion.
- Subject the 100,000 non-front line public servants to the sort of disciplines competition imposes on the private sector and abolish some 20,000 unnecessary jobs, saving another $2 billion.
That’s $26 billion, equivalent to only five per cent of Commonwealth expenditure but, in effect, balancing the budget.
It is proving overwhelmingly difficulty to achieve a balance other than by growth-sapping increases in revenue collections, partly because green, left and populist politicians take the ridiculous view that taxing the rich or “big business” can be achieved without any detrimental outcomes in terms of future activity. But savings, like those identified, need to be made and, indeed, built upon since President Trump in his tax cutting, deregulation and outlay paring measures is changing the entire agenda.
Can politicians adapt to such a shifting world – and just as importantly, can the electorate focus on the bigger picture rather than be marshalled by pressure groups to demand the regulation and redistribution measures that are undercutting prudency in government outlays?