Launched on 22 October 2013 by the Abbott Government, the National Commission of Audit (NCA) was established as an independent body to review and report on the performance, functions and roles of the Commonwealth government.
In an effort to claw back the budget deficit, the Abbott government has tasked the NCA with identifying opportunities to sell public assets and slash government spending. The NCA recently held meetings with the publically owned companies Australia Post and SBS and are expected to meet with representatives of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) later in the week. Treasurer Joe Hockey last year suggested that Medibank Private could take on the administration of the NDIS.
While the government has already said that they plan to sell off Medibank Private, the NCA head of audit, Tony Shepherd, recently told a senate inquiry that the NCA “may or may not” recommend asset sales in their findings.
Mr Shepherd also told the inquiry that the NCA “probably may consider” recommending the GST be raised and that “everything is on the table”. This comes after Prime Minister Tony Abbott had ruled out changes to the GST.
An interim report is expected to be handed down by the end of January and any recommendations will remain a secret until Mr Hockey delivers the Federal Budget in May.
Privatisation of public assets has been one measure put in place around the world in struggling OECD nations, but it was the UK who shocked us the most last year by selling off 62 per cent of its 500-year-old Royal Mail Group.
Australia Post turned a substantial profit last year of $430 million, this is after a $218 million loss on regulated mail services is taken into account. Australia Post is delivering a billion fewer letters than it did five years ago and the losses incurred through its regulated mail services continue to grow year-on-year, making privatisation even more complicated. Australia Post serves the purpose of keeping mailing costs low, nationally and internationally, but is this sustainable?
Australia Post is a national icon and the current management has been able to adapt the business at every turn to predict future needs for the industry and to be one step ahead of the competition. The last thing we want to see is our postal services going down the same route as so many of our utility services, transport companies and even banks whose main responsibilities have shifted from providing the best service to turning the highest profit every quarter.
What do you think? Is there a conflict of interest in governments owning companies this large? Would selling off Medibank Private, Australia Post and SBS be the best things for these companies? Will the money the government receives for selling off these assets make a difference?