Government Spending

Governments spend taxpayers’ money on a wide range of programmes from education to defence and from welfare to infrastructure. Yet there can be too much of a good thing, and some government spending is just wasteful. How can we ensure that taxpayers are getting value for money?


From Reform to Retreat: 30 Years of Australian Fiscal Policy
Robert Carling
10 December 2017 | OP161

Australia entered an era of economic reform in the mid-1980s as policymakers resolved to liberalise the country’s economy and strengthen its public finances. Fiscal reform, which is the subject of this paper, was an important part of the process. These reforms included management of the…

UBI – Universal Basic Income is an Unbelievably Bad Idea
Simon Cowan
05 November 2017 | RR32

The idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), paid by the government to its citizens with few restrictions, has been around for a long time. One of the main justifications for introducing a UBI is the impending changes to the labour market as a result…

Medi-Mess: Rational Federalism and Patient Cost-Sharing for Public Hospital Sustainability in Australia
David Gadiel, Jeremy Sammut
16 July 2017 | RR30

The latest attempt to ‘end the blame game’ between the state and federal governments over health funding was scuttled after state premiers rejected Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘tax swap’ federalism reform proposal at the April 2016 COAG meeting.  The intransigence of the states —and the…

Welfare reform beyond decades of dependence, ‘dole bludgers’ and ‘double dipping’
Simon Cowan
31 May 2017 | OP156

Recent attempts to reform welfare have focused on the wrong elements of the system. In some cases, advocating tightening eligibility for unemployment benefits and single mother payments while simultaneously increasing the scope and cost of family benefits and pension payments. Blaming ‘dole bludgers’ will never…

Fiscal Fiction: The Real Medicare Levy
Jeremy Sammut
07 May 2017 | RR27

The Medicare Levy is, and always has been, a fiscal fiction. The revenue raised by the levy is not ‘hypothecated’ – dedicated specifically to fund Medicare – but goes into general government revenue. Moreover, the amount of revenue raised by the levy accounts for a…

Media & Commentary

Australia's political winners and losers of a year of uncertainty
Simon Cowan
23 December 2017 | CANBERRA TIMES

As 2017 began with the resignation of a Cabinet Minister, you would have been forgiven for thinking that might have been a defining moment of the political year. Forgiven, but…

The federal budget is still in a fragile state
Robert Carling
20 December 2017 | BUSINESS INSIDER

A dollop of good fiscal fortune — a scarce commodity in Australia’s recent fiscal history — has enabled Treasurer Scott Morrison to boast of a federal budget deficit revised down…

A billion here, a billion there
Robert Carling
15 December 2017 | IDEAS@THECENTRE

Sydney needs better public transport and world-class stadiums, but it is far from clear that projects such as the George Street tramline as well as the Sydney Football Stadium and…

Future work: universal basic income is redundant
Simon Cowan

Despite its recent troubles with the eligibility of Senate candidates at the federal level, One Nation looks like it will secure significant political influence in the upcoming Queensland election. It’s…

Robots coming for our jobs? The data says no to Chicken Little
Simon Cowan
11 November 2017 | CANBERRA TIMES

Overnight on November 10, striking workers broke into a factory and smashed up the machines, reportedly angry that the factory owners were hoarding profits and thinking of cutting jobs. If…