CANBERRA May 1 A much-anticipated audit of the
Australian economy released on Thursday recommended broad
structural changes aimed at stemming what the government warns
is a looming "fiscal crisis", setting the stage for a tough
Federal budget later this month.
The Report on the National Commission of Audit made 86 key
recommendations for changes to the 15 largest and fastest
growing areas of federal spending, which it says could save A$60
billion-A$70 billion ($55 billion-$65 billion) a year within a
decade and return the budget to surplus.
Among the controversial proposals were changes to the
pension system and federal healthcare insurance, a raft of
privatisations, the devolution of power to state governments and
the abolition, sale or merger of 99 government bodies.
Australia's A$1.5 trillion economy sailed through the global
financial crisis, but a slump in mining investment and a
sluggish response to record low interest rates has hit
government tax income as expenditure continues to grow.
The Federal budget, to be handed down on May 13, is expected
to include a temporary "deficit levy" on high income earners as
well as other tough measures to tackle deficits forecast at A$47
billion this year and totalling A$123 billion over the next four
(Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Richard