Nine ways to fix the budget: the responses

Here's what the experts had to say.

This page contains all the responses to our expert poll. Some are more detailed than others. You can read the full story and see our readers' responses to the same question here. We asked:

If you could make one change to this year's federal budget what would you do? And why?

Alison Verhoeven, CEO of the Australian healthcare and hospital association

We would like to see the government withdraw its proposed co-payments for GP visits, pathology and medical imaging. This measure will disadvantage those who most need assistance to access affordable health services. As the policy was developed without the benefit of robust data and modelling to measure its impact, and possible compromises are being discussed with a very narrow range of stakeholders, the government is a long way from getting things right on this proposal.

Saul Eslake, economic commentator and Australian economist at Bank of America, Meryll Lynch

Instead of temporarily raising the top marginal income tax rate (thereby giving Australia, for three years, the English-speaking world’s highest top marginal rate, cutting in at the second-lowest top income tax threshold in the English-speaking world), permanently scale back some of the channels through which households who are, or should be, paying the top rate of tax use to reduce the extent to which they do pay the top tax rate – eg, the concessional tax treatment of non-compulsory superannuation contributions, the extent of the tax discount on capital gains, ‘negative gearing’, the use of trusts to distribute taxable income to family members with lower tax rates, the concessional FBT treatment of company cars and other benefits, and (possibly) dividend imputation.  Such changes would a) do more to reduce the deficit, b) would be permanent (like most of the measures affecting low- to middle-income households), c) would considerably enhance the perception of the budget as ‘fair’, and d) would reduce distortions to investment and saving decisions and hence probably add to economic efficiency.

Yolanda Vega, CEO of the Australian Women’s chamber of commerce and industry

If I could change one thing in this year's budget it would be to delete the Paid Parental Leave.

Why: It is expensive and discriminatory. It will further contribute to making childcare unaffordable and inaccessible for parents as demand increases.

The PPL allocated budget would be better spent assisting women entrepreneurs with skill capacity building. We now have more women running a business in Australia between the ages of 33 to 45 than we do men.

This government is treating women as though we are second class citizens. It is offensive, inexcusable and unconscionable. Having a man, Mr Abbott, holding the portfolio of the ‘Status of Women’ shows that our Prime Minister is very confused. Yes, he may be a ‘feminist’, but our PM cannot ‘represent one woman as adequately as one woman can represent all women'.

Sinclair Davidson, Professor of Institutional Economics at the RMIT school of Economics, Finance and Marketing

There is just so much that is bad about the budget that it becomes so difficult to nominate a single change.

If there was one thing to change about the budget process overall it would be to not have crafted the budget around being "fair", but rather around being "responsible". The challenge Australia faces is that our budget is on track to being finally balanced at a higher level of GDP, as opposed to a lower level of GDP. The irresponsible spending of the Rudd-Gillard government will have become permanent. Increased government spending crowds out private initiative and promises higher taxes in future. Small wonder the private sector isn't expanding. By being "responsible" the Abbott government could have introduced spending cuts to welfare without then having to spend in other areas and also raising taxes. The one thing that Joe Hockey needed to announce on budget night, but didn't, was a credible and plausible return to surplus. That might not have been "fair" but it would have been "responsible".  

Bruce Chapman, architect of the university HECs debt scheme. Currently the director of policy impact at the ANU Crawford school of public policy

The interest rate regime on HELP debts. The suggested arrangement could be made more progressive at low costs to the budget through the use of a surcharge of a hybrid interest rate regime in which debtors have debts adjusted only for changes in the CPI when they earn below the threshold.

Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS)

There are many harsh measures in the budget we oppose because they will hurt people on the lowest incomes most. We do not think it’s fair to try and balance the budget on the backs of the poorest in our community. One of the most alarming measures is the plan to deprive young people of any income support for six months and force them into failed Work for the Dole programs. This is a radical departure from our tradition of providing basic income support for all, in return for reasonable efforts to look for work where appropriate.

This measure is counterproductive and has the potential to alienate and impoverish young people at a time of high unemployment when they most need support to stay connected with the labour market and the community. We should instead be investing in the support and training young people need and building the critical relationships with employers to open up those jobs. We will continue to reject proposals that are harmful and not based on any evidence.

Kevin Noonan, researcher director at OVUM’s public sector division.

The government needs to rethink its announced  budget cuts to the public sector. There needs to be more substance behind the cuts if they are to deliver real savings. In particular, the government should have taken up the Commission of Audit’s recommendation regarding digital government. This initiative has already been highly successful for other governments around the world.

Ovum research has found that headline cuts, such as efficiency dividends, are rarely successful in the long term, unless they are backed up with fundamental changes to drive these efficiencies. Headline cuts make for good press releases, but they frequently deliver cost shifting rather than cost savings. The expenditure just pops up in another place, and this helps nobody.

A number of governments around the world have leveraged a push for digital government to drive home real savings. For example, the UK government is already well into delivering a digital government agenda. It has delivered lasting savings by consolidating services and reducing bureaucracy. It’s a win for the community and a win for government.

John Daley, CEO of the Grattan Institute

Tighten tax concessions on superannuation so that there are fewer tax breaks for the old and rich who do not need them. 

Mark Gregory, RMIT senior lecturer in electrical and computer engineering

As a budget item I would add backhaul equalisation to the universal service obligation to be funded by increasing the industry levy associated with universal service to be collected by the ACMA (as it currently collects the levy). This effectively means that anyone living in regional Australian or in remote areas will pay the same amount to access telecommunications as somebody who is based in the city. 

To kick it off I would add a $250 million grant spread over four years to reduce the initial impact on carriers and service providers as they build the levy into product pricing.

Read the full piece here.

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