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Govt razor poised over services


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Australians hoping to get a better picture of what might be included from the Abbott government’s commission of audit in the May budget will be disappointed.

The government has decided to let people sweat it out for another 10 days before revealing which, if any, of the commission’s 86 recommendations it will accept, defer or reject.

The audit, aimed at improving efficiencies in the commonwealth government, and its departments and agencies, was released on Thursday after being handed to the government last month.

Its broad-brush recommendations mainly focus on health, the ageing and education sectors – which will account for 70 per cent of total commonwealth spending over the next decade.

The commission estimates total spending will balloon to $690 billion over the next 10 years, from $409 billion.

Its chairman, former Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd, said Australians must reassess their expectations for the overall good of the nation.

“National interest and not special interest must prevail,” he told reporters in Canberra.

The audit recommends lifting the pension age to 70 by 2053, including the family home in the pension assets test and increasing the superannuation preservation age to 62 by 2027.

It also wants the roll-out of the national disability insurance scheme slowed, high-earners forced to take out private health insurance and co-payments of $15 for doctor visits.

Even Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s signature paid parental leave scheme is considered too expensive with the commission recommending it be capped at the annual average earnings rate – currently $57,460.

Mr Abbott succumbed to backbench pressure on Wednesday by reducing the cap to $100,000, from $150,000.

On school funding, the commission says all responsibilities should be transferred to the states and the size of the commonwealth education department should be significantly reduced.

The commission also recommends the budget include a 10-year outlook rather than the current four, and that each new spending commitment be evaluated in that timeframe.

It also backs the government’s review of the interaction between the commonwealth and states.

Mr Shepherd said the duplication and complexities between the two were “mind-boggling”.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says some of the recommendations will be taken up straight away, others will be further considered, while some will be rejected outright.

“We will not be providing a detailed response to each recommendation today,” he told reporters.

“The response to the commission of audit report will be in the budget.”

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