Unproductive? Go figure…

Rebecca Weisser

09 December 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre

RW - Productivity 1The Federal Government has asked the Productivity Commission to spend 12 months figuring out how to make Australia more productive.

If the government or the commission wanted to enhance their own productivity, they could get to work on the to-do list left by Gary Banks, the last head of the Commission, in 2012.

Instead, the Commission says “The slowdown in Australia’s capacity to ‘do more with the same’ is puzzling because scientific and technological knowledge advanced rapidly after the early 2000s…”  giving us the internet and apps and social media.

Perhaps no-one at the PC has spent hours updating their Facebook page or watching YouTube clips of cats playing drums — or they might know the internet can empower procrastination as much as productivity. In fact, the real puzzle is why Australia’s productivity growth isn’t even lower.

Consider. It took six years to approve one new coal mine and dozens of mines are caught up in this regulatory nightmare.  Modelling in 2014 found reducing these delays by just one year would add $160 billion to national output over a decade and create 69,000 jobs.

Billions have been wasted on unnecessary desalination plants that have been mothballed.  Billions more on the construction of wind turbines, even though they are one of the most expensive and unreliable ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Still more has been wasted building a fixed broadband network which is rapidly being made redundant by technological advances in wireless broadband.

Ever more is spent on education per student while their performance plummets against international benchmarks. Asian competitors spend half as much as we do on health but have the same life expectancy.

Extortion and thuggery increase the cost of construction by up to 30 percent but the cop won’t be on the beat for two years and has one arm tied behind his back.  Stamp duties, planning controls and regulation have pushed up the cost of housing.

And this is just scratching the surface of government mandated waste and inefficiency. If the boffins and pollies thought about this for 12 minutes, let alone 12 months, they would realise that in almost every case government intervention is the problem; it’s high time they were part of the solution.

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