Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Productivity Commission: Abbott commissioned reports that vanished

The independent Productivity Commission has lashed the Coalition for so far failing to respond to reports it commissioned up to two years ago.

Productivity Commission chairman Peter Harris will tell a competition summit on Tuesday that two years after launching what it said would be the most comprehensive review in two decades the government has done nothing about competition policy despite “occasionally reported sightings”.

The 550-page Harper review cost $3 million and was delivered to the government in March.

“For too long now, under governments of both political persuasions, major reports seem to be left to languish if they no longer suit the immediate political agenda,” Mr Harris will say.

“An issue here or there may selectively be picked off, but the outcome is minimal change despite the initial promise.”

“Reports like Harper, or closer to home my organisation’s report on Justice in Australia, now twelve months old, deserve a serious response, even if it is to reject, but explained with logic and thoughtfulness.”

“The issues involved in these reports are not second order. They are social or economic first order matters.”

The Murray inquiry into Australia’s financial system was delivered to the Abbott last December 2014. It wasn’t put on the agenda of the Abbott Cabinet until last Monday, at a meeting set down for the night Mr Abbott was deposed. The new treasurer Scott Morrison and the new assistant treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer want to delay responding to the report again while they get up to speed.

Mr Harris will say that at least the Council of Australian Governments noted the Harper Review, but he will say: “it is rare to recover bureaucratically from the fate of being noted by COAG"...

Mr Harris will say there is massive scope for the Turnbull government to benefit from taking up the sort of reforms suggested by the review.

“Take health, on which Australia presently spends about $150 billion per annum,” he will say. “The Productivity Commission has estimated gains of up to 20 per cent in health budgets from applying known clinical best practice across the board. I emphasise these are known reforms, not hypotheticals.”

“We didn’t give an estimate of gains to welfare and fiscal positions of States and Territories, but we could if a government sought such a number, as part of a wider inquiry.”

In The Age and Sydney Morning Herald