Facing the National Challenges

The “Statement of National Challenges” report was released this week by the Menzies Research Centre. It is very sober reading for anyone concerned about the future of our economy and our quality of life.

breaking_the_bank.jpgThe subtitle of the report is ‘why Australians are struggling to get ahead’ and I think that is a sentiment shared by many of us.

The report’s author, former head of the National Commission of Audit, Tony Shepherd AO states:

“For generations the great promise celebrated in our national anthem - wealth in exchange for toil - has given us an enviable lifestyle. Yet Australians are beginning to doubt that promise…they have become distrustful of government and nervous about the future."

It’s a message that regular readers of this column have heard repeatedly over the years. The question remains, why aren’t the political class doing much to fix it?

At some levels, I don’t think many in politics are equipped to see the long term implications of their decisions. They justify our escalating national debt as less bad than others and therefore ok. They legitimise our high taxes by comparing them to socialist countries. They excuse the rorting of our generous welfare system as a human right rather than a hand-up.

It’s as if living beyond one’s means is a moral obligation for government.

The Shepherd report also contains some telling statistics under the heading ‘a strong economy is the basis of a just and fair society’, highlighting our borrowing for recurrent spending and our ageing population.

We currently spend in excess of $155 billion annually on welfare and $72 billion on health. That’s over half the budget on these two measures alone and both are growing well in excess of inflation.

Alarmingly, our tax base is concentrated in an ever-diminishing group of lifters. Nearly 60 per cent of corporate tax is paid by just 0.1 per cent of companies whilst nearly half of all personal tax is paid by nine per cent of earners.

Clearly this is not sustainable and makes a mockery of the cacophony of chanting ‘make the wealthy pay their fair share’ mantra. These lifters are doing that - and more.

I realise such statistics may not sit well with those who see others doing better but we have to confront the reality of the problem facing our nation.

Too many are expecting too much from government. Unfortunately too many in government seek to placate those demands for political expediency.

The real price of that opportunism will be borne by the next generation.

You can download a copy of the report here.