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The Forum > Article Comments > It's time for smaller government > Comments

It's time for smaller government : Comments

By Simon Cowan, published 18/3/2013

Since 1972, spending across all three levels of government has increased at an average rate of 4% a year. Today the government rakes in more than a third of everything this country produces.

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Yes sure, it's time for smaller Govt!
State admins and their duplication, costs us around 70 billions per.
Most if not all they do could be handled/shared by the Fed and local Govt, without any increase in staff or budgets?
State admins are, I believe, little more than middlemen taking and handing on Govt money, for a fee!
And it would be fair to say, they, with their endless combative political mechanisations,are little more than ultra costly, time wasting road blocks, in the path of genuine progress?
Infrastructure roll-outs, delayed for around a decade, by just this nonsense, generally cost double, when finally built!
Plus, around 30% is wasted as admin fees, by this entirely unnecessary, double handling/double dipping?
Many of the functions of Govt, water, electricity reticulation, health and education, can be and once were handled, by unpaid voluntary regional boards.
Council members used to receive a refund on expenses, not a salary.
More local autonomy, and a direct pro rate funding model, automatically adjusted upwards, for rural and regional remoteness, would allow a considerable downsize in public service numbers!
Apples for apples comparisons and benchmarking, would remove most of the opportunities for corrupt individuals, to line their own pockets, or those of cronies?
And how good would it be, to lever the hands of state officials, off of the rezoning process, that currently creates, up to a 43% premium, on new housing!
With one exception, we are the most over governed people on the planet.
Real tax reform and massive simplification, would remove the need for often onerous compliance costs.
Moreover, the total take take, if collected as an unavoidable expenditure tax, would take less from the averaged bottom line than current compliance costs! And indeed, raise an additional 100 billion plus PA into the bargain.
We should be building nation building infrastructure, not creating career pathways for thousands of complex rationalists, whose only answer seems to be, add another layer of convoluted and opaque complexity, and another layer of bureaucrats to manage it; and or, abrogate core responsibility's and privatise?
Posted by Rhrosty, Monday, 18 March 2013 9:26:11 AM
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The author's describing himself simply as a research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) doesn't tell us much if we don't know what the CIS is, so we are already cued to interpret "research fellow" as "loyal paid foot soldier".

I notice that a post on the Forum topic "Are Conservatives uncaring?" described the CIS as a "right wing think tank funded largely by the tax deductible contributions of businesses whose leaders fear having to contend with a clear thinking well educated population." The same post continued, "Carey's book gives CIS a couple of good serves and claims it was initially set up and assisted by American business interests."

If the CIS really is an unbiased, independent research organisation owing allegiance to no political interest, as Simon Cowan's self description seems to imply, perhaps one of its leaders might provide us with a convincing reassurance.
Posted by GlenC, Monday, 18 March 2013 10:49:35 AM
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i would refer the the speech the the late bob Menzies gave to the press club on his retirement in 66.

where he makes the point big problems need big GOVERNMENT.

we know how unprepared as a nation for WW2. the nation was .

as citizens require more from gov. now .therefor there is a need for the numbers,and services

Posted by ben gershon, Monday, 18 March 2013 10:52:21 AM
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The author writes; "the size of government has grown to now reach 35% of GDP".

To arrive at such a figure the author has probably added state funded genuine essential services such as public school education, federal and state subsidies to education, and state provided, road, rail, health, police and justice services etc to the total Federal government expenses.

If such essential services were provided by private enterprise I wonder how poor the quality of the services would become. Very inferior to world best I would suggest.

I can provide an excellent example. I have recently examined the cost of power generation in NSW. Over the last 15 years, while the generators were mainly government owned, the average annual rate of increase in actual power station generating cost has been 1.6%pa.

Why have the charges to consumers increased inordinately. I suggest those increases have been mainly due to privatization of the marketing aspect. That aspect could be handled by a simple accounting style charging system. Where there is only one service to a household or building the concept of competition is a privatization rip-off.

In any situation where genuine competition is impossible, or is likely to be dangerous such as in monitoring food or health services quality, Common Good is best served by well supervised government intervention and/or service provision.
Posted by Foyle, Monday, 18 March 2013 11:36:55 AM
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Already with current levels of govt revenue there is simply not enough money for roads, other transport infrastructure, health, education etc. That's why the conservative govt in Victoria has been attacking the construction union,teachers and the TAFE sector. There simply isn't enough money and they are desperately trying to cut costs - even when that is neither sensible nor fair. Instead there needs to be open recognition that small government like this does not and cannot work.

The 'small government alternative' here would necessarily involve user pays infrastructure and services. That would mean an education system in which working class and rural students simply didn't enjoy the same opportunity. It could mean paying user charges whenever you used a freeway. It could mean ditching collective consumption as with the Pharmaceutial Benefits Scheme - with the consequence of medicines becoming more expensive..

The bottom line is that social insurance and collective consumption via govt services is in most citizens' interests. In the 1950s European Christian Democratic (ie: conservative) parties largely accepted the need for a 'social market'. My own ambitions are more radical - but it shows how much things have changed!

Especially since the 1970s profits have fallen - and to put it bluntly capitalists want ordinary people to foot the bill. The wage share of the economy has fallen; natural public monopolies have been privatised with the consequent fleecing of the public; industrial liberties are gone - at the same time as we are bombarded with economic liberal Ideology. (ie: there are double standards)

Many crucial sectors are effectively 'subsidised' with low or relatively low wages and conditions for aged care workers, child care workers, teachers. Corporate taxes have been slashed - but taxes on citizens have increased - regressive taxes like the GST..Through lower wages and corporate welfare we are all paying the price.

The Aged Care challenge alone means taxes must rise if we're to avoid the most regressive charges; and/or the most inhumane treatment of our aged. The author of this article chooses to ignore the social consequenes of 'small govt no matter what'.
Posted by Tristan Ewins, Monday, 18 March 2013 3:02:16 PM
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Smaller Govt doesn't necessarily imply service reduction. Services are supplied by the coal face workforce, not the plethora of bureaucrats, or their demands for paper work, done in costly time consuming triplicate?
We had the school hall roll-out, some of which, thanks to the admin fees added by state govts, costing 30% more, than the direct funding model, that simply bypassed states.
When Premier Bettie took power in Queensland, their big Govt administration model closed down 1000 beds, so it could add an additional layer of fat cat bureaucrats, whose only role seems to have been to collect and collate information, and or, add another layer of entirely unnecessary complexity to service provision, culminating in the health service wages debacle.
Just another case of fixing what was not broken?
Self interest, on the part of some very clever senior public servants, and the patent obfuscation they use to cloud or confound debate, or, if you will, the facts, is not an argument for simply maintaining the status quo.
One of the things management teaches, is there is always a better way to do things.
It seems to me, that a better way includes streamlining and some serious downsizing of departments, and or department heads, who are all too often, I believe, are propped up by their more competent assistants?
If we saw Australia, as simply a very large corporation, with a limited operational budget, we would start to prune off those parts of it, which routinely under perform, provide no real service or value; but rather, all too often add immensely to the workload, of those actually supplying the real services?
And, as an economy, we would do far better, if we could simply identify and eliminate, those parts of it, that are populated, by unproductive, profit demanding paper shuffling parasites?
Posted by Rhrosty, Monday, 18 March 2013 3:52:27 PM
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