Australia needs a new policy blueprint

Australia needs bold policy reform to build back better after the COVID recession, according to a special pre-election book from independent think tank the Grattan Institute.

Orange Book 2022: Policy priorities for the federal government maps out a policy blueprint to reignite wages growth and boost Australians’ living standards.

It calls for major tax reform – including increasing or broadening the GST and winding back tax concessions to fund income tax cuts – as well as cheaper childcare, lower patient payments to medical specialists and dentists, higher-density housing in the major capital cities, a boost to the JobSeeker payment, stronger action on climate change, and a Commonwealth Integrity Commission with teeth.

‘This is an ambitious agenda,’ says lead author and Grattan Institute CEO Danielle Wood.

‘But decades of policy gridlock mean there are many opportunities to improve Australians’ living standards through better policy.

‘Whoever wins the 2022 federal election needs to get the ball rolling, so Australia can emerge from the pandemic as a fairer, more prosperous, and more optimistic nation.’

The Orange Book is named after Grattan Institute’s signature colour. Like the ‘Blue Book’ (for the Coalition) and ‘Red Book’ (for Labor) that public service chiefs prepare for incoming governments, the ‘Orange Book’ sets out policy recommendations for whichever party wins the election.

Based on detailed research and rigorous analysis published by Grattan Institute since it was founded 13 years ago, Orange Book 2022 identifies reforms to boost incomes, improve health and education, create better transport links, make housing more affordable, generate meaningful progress on climate change, and strengthen Australia’s political institutions.

To arrest declining student performance, teachers should be given more time to prepare for class, and the next federal government should commit to doubling within 10 years the proportion of high achievers who choose teaching as their career.

To reduce the number of Australians who delay or skip getting needed healthcare, the government should ensure patients pay less out of their own pocket when they see a medical specialist or the dentist.

To tackle the scourge of poverty and homelessness, the government should boost Commonwealth Rent Assistance by at least 40 per cent and JobSeeker by at least $75 a week.

To create job opportunities as Australia pursues its target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the government should collaborate with industry to build on our comparative advantages in renewable energy and critical minerals, and target emissions-reduction policies across the economy.

To boost the bang for buck from transport spending, the federal government should fund only nationally significant infrastructure projects, avoiding projects that are poor value for money.

And to revive Australians’ trust in their political system, the next government should tighten the rules on political donations and lobbying, and create an anti-corruption commission with sweeping powers.

‘No government could implement in a single term all the reforms we recommend in the Orange Book,’ Ms Wood says.

‘But if governments were to tackle a reasonable number of them over the next decade, it could transform Australia, with higher incomes, less poverty, better-quality and more efficiently delivered services, a liveable climate, and stronger democratic institutions.

‘The 2022 election campaign should be the starting gun for the race to build a better Australia.’

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