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Australian government unveils budget "audit" to advance austerity agenda

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Yesterday's release of the terms of reference and makeup of the Liberal-National coalition government's "commission of audit" into the federal budget underscore the advanced preparations underway for unprecedented cutbacks to welfare entitlement programs and basic social services on which millions of working people depend.

Treasurer Joe Hockey yesterday declared that no area of government spending would be off limits for the audit commission. It will issue a preliminary report to the government in January and hand down its full findings in March next year, paving the way for a harsh austerity budget in May. "Every area of government is going to be examined," Hockey declared. "There are no restrictions."

The government has appointed Tony Shepherd, president of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), as chairman of the audit commission, a move making clear the anti-working class character of the budget review body.

The BCA is the primary lobby group for Australia's largest corporations, in sectors including banking and finance, mining, energy, telecommunications, media, manufacturing and construction, and retail. It dominates the commission of audit. In addition to Shepherd, the organization's chief economist and policy director Peter Crone will head the commission's secretariat, working with officials from the Treasury and Finance departments. Other members of the commission include Peter Boxall, a former public service official, who the Australian Financial Review reported "is considered an economic dry and free market champion who oversaw the Howard government's contentious WorkChoices policy," former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone, former Treasury Secretary Tony Cole, and former Western Australian public service head Robert Fisher.

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Patrick Martin writes for the World Socialist Website (wsws.org), a forum for socialist ideas & analysis & published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).
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