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Micro-reforms from university fees to council red-tape to lift post-virus economy

The report was headed by then-commission chairman Peter Harris, who is now the chief executive of the government’s National COVID-19 Co-ordination Commission, which will help outline policies to boost the economy once the pandemic has passed.

Among the report’s most contentious measures were the introduction of road user charges, a price on carbon emissions, a single volumetric tax on alcohol and even automatic vending machines for pharmaceuticals.

The biggest gains were expected to be made in overhauls of higher education, vocational education and the local government area.

The commission argued against nit-picking local councils that put red tape in the way of small businesses or other regulatory impediments that may delay or impose heavy costs on a firm.

Its higher education proposals included charging students the actual cost of their courses rather than subsidising more expensive ones, a move that had smaller universities concerned they would be disadvantaged against larger institutions. The university sector would also be brought under consumer law.

In vocational education, it advocated better training and increased resources. But it also backed a change in qualifications, with students ranked on their performance through their coursework rather than just issued with certificates at the end of their studies.

Scott Morrison singled out a report that advocates wide-ranging micro-economic reform as a starting point for rebuilding the nation.

Scott Morrison singled out a report that advocates wide-ranging micro-economic reform as a starting point for rebuilding the nation.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Morrison on Thursday said he wanted to take advantage of the strong relationships established between the states, unions and businesses in dealing with the coronavirus to help drive economic growth faster.

He said a string of reports, including Shifting the Dial, offered new ideas on how to boost the economy.

“We are looking at all of these things with fresh eyes, with very fresh eyes, with a view to what the post-COVID economy is going to look like globally and domestically to help them get back on their feet and grow the businesses and have a business-led recovery to put Australia in a stronger position in the future,” he said.

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“We need to go through this process at the moment of harvesting all of these important policy options and how they can be utilised to have an effective and sustainable and strong recovery on the other side of the coronavirus.”

The Productivity Commission argued any micro-economic reforms had to accompanied by substantial tax changes. It cited the removal of stamp duty and a shift to land taxes by the state as an area worth examining.

Business groups have already called for the government to reconsider its plan to take the corporate tax rate for all firms down to 25 per cent.

Mr Morrison ruled out changes to negative gearing or franking credits, saying he did not understand how a tax increase helped grow the economy.

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“I mean there are some things that remain truisms,” he said.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the pandemic had reminded the public that government intervention was an essential element of the economy.

“What we don’t need is a government that says, ‘After this crisis is over, we’ll just let the market rip’ ” he said.

“What we need is a government that’s prepared to invest in people, in skills.”

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