1 - Principles of Good Government

In examining the scope, efficiency and sustainability of the Commonwealth and in preparing its recommendations, the Commission has developed a set of common sense principles to guide its deliberations.

These core principles have shaped our approach and helped ensure our fiscal goals can be achieved in a way the community understands.

  1. Live within your means. All government spending should be assessed on the basis of its long-term cost and effectiveness and the sustainability of the nation’s long‑term finances.
  2. Harness the benefits of the Federation but demand a responsible Federation. The Commonwealth’s activities should be guided by the Constitution. The States and Territories should be free to compete amongst themselves, respecting the regional differences of a big continent. However, there will be occasions where the national interest calls for a cooperative and national approach.
  3. Protect the truly disadvantaged. Government should protect the truly disadvantaged and target public assistance to those most in need.
  4. Respect personal responsibility and choice. Government should not and cannot eliminate or insure every risk to the community. Personal responsibility and choice are fundamental to our democratic system.
  5. Assure value for taxpayers’ money and ministerial responsibility. Governments spend taxpayers’ money not the government’s money. They must assure value across all expenditure and constantly strive to improve productivity and eliminate waste. All programmes should be regularly assessed for effectiveness against their stated goals and outcomes. Ministerial responsibility is imperative and their departments should be the primary source of policy advice.
  6. Be transparent and honest. Transparency and honesty are fundamental to accountability. Government policy goals and programme outcomes must be transparent. Transparency in government will better illuminate the choices we face and the decisions needed for the overall good of the nation. Spending on lower priorities, even if worthy or popular, needs to be resisted.
  7. Reduce complexity. Government should reduce complexity which impacts on its own operations, the operations of the States and Territories and the activities of the community and business. Reporting requirements should be kept to a minimum.
  8. Avoid regulation as a first response to a problem. Adding new regulations to deal with problems should be the last resort and introduced only when existing laws prove inadequate and the risks of no regulation outweigh the costs to the community.
  9. Act in the public interest and recognise the benefits of markets. In competitive markets, customers, not producers, take precedence. Competition and contestability drives lower costs, improves quality and gives people what they want. Government should act in the public interest and only intervene in markets where market solutions fail to produce the best outcome for the nation as a whole.
  10. Do not deliver services if others are better placed to do it. The delivery of public services should, wherever practicable, be handed to those organisations and levels of government closest to those receiving the service and should not be duplicated.