Business Council of Australia releases economic action plan urging Government to audit spending
As Federal Treasurer Chris Bowen puts the finishing touches on his highly-anticipated pre-election economic statement, Australia's top business lobby group is presenting an economic blueprint of its own.
The Business Council of Australia (BCA) will today deliver an economic action plan and amongst its 93 recommendations, it urges a comprehensive audit of how taxpayer money is prioritised and spent.
While the 190 page wish-list does not suggest harsh austerity measures, it does warn that Australia must learn to live within its means as the mining boom begins to fade.
The 93 recommendations include reforms to taxation, workplace relations, regulation and federal-state relations.
BCA president Tony Shepherd says in addition to overhauling major policies, the Government needs to undertake a comprehensive audit of how taxpayer money is prioritised and spent.
"What we would like in the economic statement is a recognition of where we're at, a recognition of what the future holds and a plan to return the economy and the budget to surplus over the next few years and a plan to lock that in in a sustainable way so that we can build the reserves for the future," he told AM.
"We believe that it is time to review the whole of government in terms of its expenditure, the value we get out of it and, more importantly, what we can afford.
"Like a household, we cannot continue to live beyond our means. We're not suggesting austerity or anything like that.
"What we're saying is we need a realistic look of what we have in front of us, what we can afford to do and we need to plan for the longer term future.
"Australia is at the crossroads. We have choices to make.
"Do we choose for the long term or do we choose for the short term electoral cycle?”
While the Business Council’s blueprint is critical of the Government, Mr Shepherd suggested the Howard government could have used the proceeds of massive corporate tax receipts from the mining boom more responsibly.
"I think we've got to say at the end of the day, what exactly did we get out of the mining boom?" he said.
"We'd have to say that the results have been disappointing.
"But at least the Howard government left us in surplus with a good sum of money in the Future Fund."
The Business Council says while the economic action plan is aimed at the Government, it is also designed to force the Coalition to sharpen its economic credentials ahead of the election.
"Look, we will measure both sides of politics against the plan when it comes to their election promises," Mr Shepherd said.
"Certainly the Opposition has made the right noises regarding fiscal responsibility and returning the budget to surplus," he said.
"In the end, we will objectively measure each side of politics against this plan and that of course is yet to come."