“This is just a report for government; the more interesting thing is what the government actually thinks of it,” said Michael Croker, head of tax policy at the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia.
“We just see it as stage one of a message that is coming from Canberra saying ‘good management means that we are looking at our costs and our structures and how efficiently we are about going about our work’,” he said.
Mr Croker also suggested the document will not simply influence the upcoming Budget but will also have longer term effects.
“It is probably a document that has ongoing usefulness in terms of how the public sector should work, or could work, more efficiently,” he said.
CPA Australia chief executive Alex Malley said it is clear, based on the sobering findings in the report, that Australia faces some difficult decisions and tough choices in the months and years ahead.
"But this report, with its suite of recommendations targeting big spending programs with cuts, co-payments and asset sales, must not be seen as a silver bullet to deliver Australia’s future prosperity,” he said.
“Rather, it should serve to stimulate serious discussion about what we want our nation to look like in the future, to clearly determine its direction and put in place mechanisms which support the drivers of economic growth over the next five, 10 and even 20 years”.
Mr Malley said that need not necesariliy involve a rush to make cuts that may risk undermining the economic and social prosperity Australia has enjoyed for generations.
“That is not a vision, he said”. “Cutting spending in and of itself to meet an ambitious surplus target, conditional on implementing all the report’s recommendations in their entirety, will not provide a roadmap for long-term success and could even exacerbate the problem,” he said.
“Tough decisions are needed, and some of those may be about implementing recommendations contained in this report, but they are only a part of a much bigger picture,” Mr Malley added.