Home > Economic policy > Reviewing the Commission of Audit, in advance

Reviewing the Commission of Audit, in advance

April 10th, 2014

Just about every incoming conservative government since the 1980s has instituted a Commission of Audit report on taking office. These Commissions are pieces of political theatre rather than serious attempts to examine the whole of the government’s operations – given a small secretariat and a short period in which to work, it could hardly be otherwise. The conclusions are entirely predictable: the outgoing Labor government left a financial disaster; drastic action is needed, mostly consisting of measures the new government has always favored but which it chose not to mention (or to disavow explicitly) during the election campaign; there will be pain, but we will all be better off in the long run

What’s less predictable is the use that the government makes of the report. In general, this depends on the polls. If the government is riding high, the report is released in a blaze of publicity and the new government’s first budget contains deep cuts. The idea is that an expenditure of political capital early makes room for sweeteners in the leadup to the next election. On the other hand, if things are already going badly (eg the Baillieu government in Victoria) the report may be suppressed altogether. The middle path is to keep the report under wraps until close to Budget day, when the choices about how to respond have to be made in any case.

That’s the way the Abbott government has gone. The Audit Commission finished its interim report (usually the most important one) in February and its final report in March, but neither has seen the light of day.

So, I’m preparing a ‘review’ of the report based on a combination of past precedent and the leaks emanating from the Treasurer’s office. It’s surprisingly easy, and it struck me that I could enhance my productivity by turning the review into a template which could then be used for generations to come. Just plug in the names of the new PM and Treasurer, the LNP credentials of the Commissioners, the number of billions in the shock-horror headline number and so on. The section on policy recommendations would be easiest of all. Just start with the standard list of 1980s micro=reform and fiscal policy agenda items (along with my standard rebuttal), then delete those already implemented, add back any that have been repealed, and voila, the job would be done. It seems as if this could all be done in MS Word, but maybe a report generator is what I need. Would anyone care to help me with the tech aspects?

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  1. April 10th, 2014 at 18:03 | #1

    You could improve this productivity-enhancer even further by creating a template for the audit report as well. As you’ve pointed out, they always contain much the same things.

    All the Commiision of Audit would need to do is fill in a simple online form, click on an output button, and sign the resultant hard copy. You could then publish the auto-generated review here.

  2. Collin Street
    April 10th, 2014 at 21:13 | #2

    You should do it in LaTeX. That way:
    + the annual updates could be done in a single line of code, and
    + you’d have pretty much learned LaTeX at the end of it, thus making the whole process produce some benefit for somebody.

  3. Oliver Townshend
    April 11th, 2014 at 10:48 | #3

    Happy to help with the technology you want to do it in word.

  4. Oliver Townshend
    April 11th, 2014 at 10:50 | #4

    I would do it as a spreadsheet of choices for each year driving a mail merge. You could then update the spreadsheet and get a document for any chosen year. Easy enough to then drive into a Web Page with a few simple tips.

  5. Will
    April 11th, 2014 at 15:22 | #5

    The right wing is incapable of generating new ideas. Due to their self-selection along ingroup-outgroup lines they exist in an epistemological bubble which severely filters and distorts incoming information. This leads to taking an ideological approach to problems (included in this is the blatant attacks on members of the outgroup).

    I don’t think that LibNats need to campaign any more for Federal elections as anyone who has been paying attention will be able to rattle off their policies by heart from simple repetition over the decades (lower taxes; less gubmint spending; moral panic over brown people; cut some kinds of welfare and replace it with handouts to people who don’t need it; the debt is too big and we’re about to go bankrupt; it’s all the lefties fault since they “spend too much”.)

  6. Nathan
    April 12th, 2014 at 17:23 | #6

    I second the Latex suggestion. If you’re serious, I could do up a template to start with. But if you’re not already familiar with the program, Collin is correct to point out that there’s a bit of learning time involved.

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