National Commission of Audit: “inquiry into everything”

23 October 2013

“Every area of government will be examined. There are no restrictions.” says treasurer Joe Hockey 

COMMISSION OF AUDIT PRESSERDetails of the  National Commission of Audit foreshadowed by the Abbott government have been announced by treasurer Joe Hockey and finance minister Senator Matthias Cormann.

The commission’s terms of reference provide for a sweeping review of government functions, activities and spending and  will be chaired by Business Council of Australia (BCA) president Tony Shephard.  The secretariat will also be headed by a BCA operative.

Privatisations and Commonwealth asset sales are clearly set for examination, even though  Cormann refused to speculate what these may be until the commission’s report is handed to the government.

Phase 1 of the audit, to  report at the end of January 2014 will cover the roles and responsibilities, the efficiency and effectiveness of government expenditure and medium term fiscal sustainability.

Phase 2, to be completed by the end of March in time to feed into the 2014/2015 budget, will focus on public sector performance and accountability.

quote marksBy choosing to have Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd chair the inquiry – as distinct from being one of its members – the government is, to a considerable extent, outsourcing the driving of the project to a Man with a Plan.

 (Should a lobby group chair the Audit Commission?)

. . . . . . . . . . . . .


Tony Shepherd, Business Council of Australia president and Transfield Services chairman


Peter Boxall, NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal chairman and former secretary of federal departments including Resources, Energy and Tourism, Employment and Workplace Relations, and Finance and Administration
Tony Cole, former Treasury secretary, former deputy secretary to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and chairman of the Melbourne Institute Economic Forums
Robert Fisher, former director-general of WA departments of Industrial and Regional Development, Trade and Family
and Children’s Services
Amanda Vanstone, Howard government minister in portfolios including Families and Community Services,
Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Employment and Justice and Customs

Commission Secretariat

Peter Crone, BCA chief economist and director of policy


  • Ensure taxpayers get value for money and waste is eliminated
  • Identify unnecessary duplication between levels of government
  • Identify areas or programs where commonwealth involvement is inappropriate or no longer needed
  • Make recommendations to achieve the savings needed to deliver a surplus of 1% of GDP before 2023-24

Phase 1 – The scope of government

  • Assess how roles and responsibilities are divided between the commonwealth and other levels of government
  • Examine whether services could be more efficiently delivered by the private sector, charities, the states or local government than by the federal government
  • Examine commonwealth-state relations to inform a white paper on federation reform
  • Look at ways to save on government services by increasing competition, using new technologies, consolidating agencies and boards, flattening organisational structures, streamlining support services and privatising commonwealth assets
  • Managing spending growth by seeking savings in programs and grants, and examining the use of co-payments, user charges or incentive payments
  • Assess the commonwealth’s financial position including all assets and liabilities
  • Report on the long-term sustainability of the budget position
  • Examine the budget rules

Report due by the end of January 2014

Phase 2 – Commonwealth infrastructure

  • Review the extent, condition and adequacy of commonwealth sector infrastructure
  • Examine public sector performance and accountability
  • Identify options for the continuous assessment of programs, agencies and performance
  • Increase the independent and credible scrutiny of commonwealth budgetary arrangements
  • Examine the role of the Parliamentary Budget Office, the Australian National Audit Office and the Intergenerational Report

Report due by the end of March 2014

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