Report enough to frighten any Govt
A page-turner of electoral landmines for the Abbott Government. Picture: Getty Images

Like any document intentionally blind to politics, the report of the Commission of Audit is page-turner of electoral landmines for the Abbott Government.

Broadscale means-testing of welfare, leaving families up to $8000 worse off.

Bigger co-payments for pharmaceuticals and medical services.

Linking the retirement age to life expectancy.

Inclusion of the family home in the pension assets test and the aged care means test.

Ending the universality of Medicare.

There are many more but these plans alone would be enough to frighten any Government worried about its longevity.

No wonder there have already been repeated assurances from ministers that the Commission's report is one "to" Government, not "from" Government.

That said, the report is refreshingly audacious, even if many of the recommendations have little or no chance of implementation.

The broad philosophy of the report - that Government should only intervene when there is absolute need or market absence - is, unsurprisingly, consistent with the Government's desire to withdraw or lessen its services.

And the Commission's reflections on the federation are fascinating insofar as they run counter to the recent trend towards centralisation.

Giving States primary responsibility on schools, and greater responsibility for funding growth in hospitals are opposite to the reforms pushed by Labor under Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

Perhaps most remarkably, the Commission suggests allowing States to again be income tax collectors, reversing World War Two-era changes.

Colin Barnett will equally delight in the Commission's recommendation that the GST carve-up be wholly rewritten to introduce an equal per capita system.

WA would be more than $3 billion a year better off under such a system. You can hear Tasmania already squealing.

The report also offers the Government an opportunity to extract itself from some of its more unwieldy and expensive election promises.

The Commission questions the wisdom of the coalition's promise to get defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP by 2023-24, noting the ADF's "mixed" record on Defence spending efficiently.

If the Government accepted the Commission's advice, it could make further substantial change to Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme, while also improving childcare funding.

But that might be one retreat too many for the Prime Minister on his "signature" policy.

The West Australian

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