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Fearless budget analysis for a healthy democracy
Democracy dies in darkness – so good budget analysis is vital to a healthy democracy. The federal budget is Australia's social compact with itself: taxpayers hand almost a quarter of all national income to the government, which then gives that back to the young and the old and the sick and the poor. Making sure we budget well is vital to Australians – ensuring our taxes promote prosperity and our spending fosters fairness and that the budget balance suits what the nation needs over the short- and longer-term.
Yet neither governments nor oppositions have much incentive to shed light on budgets, and budget reporting typically glosses over a range of dirty deals done dirt cheap. That's why the very first thing Access Economics ever did was to launch our Budget Monitor publication. The great triumph of Budget Monitor and our related analysis (including costing the policies of Oppositions) is to have shone sunlight – the best of disinfectants – where there has been too little light. To the pain of politicians, we've uncovered hidden deficits (in the mid-1990s, triggering a change in how Treasury reported the budget balance), correctly warned that the China boom was papering over budget weakness (from 2003 to 2012), and we were central to the most comprehensive policy development ever undertaken by an Opposition (Fightback! in 1992 and 1993).
Valuing Australia's icons
What does invaluable actually mean? Analysis of the economic and social impacts of key Australian assets can drive wider community understanding and appreciation. To commemorate the Sydney Opera House's 40th anniversary in 2013, we analysed its economic and social value. This analysis was updated in October 2018.
In 2017, our world-first study calculating the total economic, social and icon asset value of the Great Barrier Reef identified it as the biggest contributor to our national economy and our international brand, valuing it at $56 billion. The report helped raise awareness of the economic importance of the reef and the importance of its survival and preservation to the economy. The Australian government announced a $500 million investment to protect the reef. The report earned Deloitte its first ever Cannes Lions awards.
The methodology we used in these studies can be applied to other icons. Similar approaches have been used to estimate the value , the Australian screen production industry, State Library of NSW, Sydney Fish Market and the Adelaide Botanic Garden.
Measuring the true toll of illness
In 2001, Arthritis Australia approached us to ascertain whether it would be possible to estimate the economic impact of arthritis in Australia. We developed a method that involved estimating from epidemiological and demographic data the prevalence of different types of arthritis, compiling information on health system expenditures across acute, primary and allied care, as well as losses in national production due to reduced workforce participation and absenteeism of people with arthritis and their careers.
The Prevalence, Cost of Disease Burden of Arthritis in Australia was thus the first of our 'cost of illness' studies, which have become a signature offering of our health economics practice. We have since undertaken hundreds of studies across five continents and over 70 therapeutic areas including for various cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory and gastro-intestinal conditions, vision and hearing loss, dementia, sleep disorders and Parkinson's disease. Many of the findings have been published in peer-reviewed journals, presented at international conferences, and used in iconic public health campaigns – with substantial media and public policy impact.
Key examples have been our Cost of obesity reports in 2005 and 2008 which generated media for four years in Australia, as well as a 20-country study in 2012-13 on the cost of four eye diseases which was used to assist in the global campaign to eradicate preventable blindness, and a 9-country study on the cost of four heart conditions in 2015-17 which was used to raise awareness across Latin American policy makers, clinicians, patient bodies and other stakeholders to better prevent and treat heart disease and save lives. Most recently our work since 2012 for the Butterfly Foundation in Australia on the cost of eating disorders and cost effective intervention has led to 2017-18 Federal Government investments in better models of care for this vulnerable group.
Tackling family violence
In 2004 Access Economics was commissioned by the Commonwealth Government Office for Women within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to estimate and report on The Cost of Domestic Violence to the Australian Economy. In undertaking the research and modelling for the report, we found that domestic violence was the greatest single underlying risk factor to the life and health of Australian women aged 25-44, through its linkages to immediate injuries/illnesses and long term chronic conditions. The Australian Institute for Health and Welfare subsequently added domestic violence to its list of major health risk factors and continues to cite this finding in its estimates of the burden of disease and injury in Australia.
Since then, we have undertaken a number of studies on the cost effectiveness of interventions to help prevent domestic violence, and policy analyses in support of Indigenous community safety. By the time of the 2015-16 Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations, after which the government committed over $100 million to help with prevention and support for victims, Deloitte Access Economics was providing strong thought leadership, pro bono support, and helping Deloitte introduce new internal workplace policies as well as partnering with the Luke Batty Foundation. Our 2015 report, Change for a better future -addressing domestic and family violence together: the role of business highlighted that a government response is only part of the answer, with important roles for business and community in providing a coordinated response. Over 2016-18 we partnered with the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, Women's Centre for Health Matters, CARE Financial Counselling, Service One bank and sponsors in the ACT to research, establish the corpus, set up, and now evaluate and enhance the Assistance Beyond Crisis micro-finance facility. The facility changes lives by providing post-crisis interest-free loans to meet needs and avoid homelessness, and won a 2018 Philanthropy Australia award. Deloitte continues to support family violence service organisations across Australia and contribute to policy and practical prevention of family violence.
Tax on, tax off
Deloitte Access Economics' name has become closely linked to frank analysis and review of Australia's tax policy. Our first substantial piece of work in this area was Fightback! - a 650-page economic policy package document for the Liberal Party of Australia, then in opposition, in 1992. Coverage at the time called it “a grand design of vision, faith and courage” (The Age).
Tax was a large piece of the document, with the main proposal remembered today being the GST (or potentially that birthday cake interview). A number of the proposals were later adopted, in some form, to a small extent during the Keating Labor Government, and to a larger extent during the Howard Liberal Government (most famously the GST).
The CGE model is a class of economic model that uses actual economic data to estimate how an economy might react to changes in policy, technology or other external factors. We have used this model to advise on the efficiency of different taxes and tax packages. An interesting example is a series of projects done for the Insurance Council which argued for the replacement of various stamp duties with a land tax which helped get most State Treasuries supporting such a change. We have also been involved in debates over the years on specific tax changes (the mining tax, company taxes today etc.).
Banging on about Digital Disruption
In 2011, Deloitte identified 'digital disruption' as a key issue transforming businesses and industries across the Australian economy. In the second edition of the Building the Lucky Country thought leadership series, Digital disruption: Short fuse, big bang? Deloitte Access Economics mapped the timing and size of expected impacts. It captured the zeitgeist of the moment, with the Prime Minister encouraging Cabinet Ministers to read it. The report has been quoted in speeches and articles for years afterwards.
While the edgy title of Digital Disruption and the memorable map made the report influential, it built on the intellectual architecture developed in studies for Google, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, Optus and IBM. The report sparked a wave of digital work for key technology, media and telecommunications clients including Telstra, Facebook, Adobe, Salesforce, Uber, Airbnb and the Australian Computer Society, and deep dives into digital analysis of sectors including agriculture, mining, construction, professional services and education.
Reform of Australia's aged care sector
On aged care, Access Economics was a trusted source of hard numbers that informed government policy for close to a decade. That was important at a time when the Department of Health didn't have a forward looking capability when it came to aged care funding. The Department of Health and Aged Care, as it was known at the time, commissioned Access Economics through the noughties to construct substantial national micro-simulation models of residential and community aged care that departed from traditional regulatory-heavy approaches and introduced an economic and consumer lens to policy thinking. At the same time, industry peak bodies partnered with us to demonstrate the failure of financing models at the time to deliver incentives for providers to offer appropriate services. The community sector, notably our 2010 report, The future for aged care in Australia for National Seniors Australia, and a series of reports over 2003 to 2012 for Dementia Australia helped generate policy reform focused on appropriate person-centred care in both community and residential settings, particularly for Australians with dementia and other minority groups. We thus provided substantial inputs towards the re-engineering of the aged care sector implemented in the Living Longer Living Better (2012) and subsequent reforms.
Deloitte Access Economics continues to provide strong analytical and evidence based inputs in the sector for industry – such as our 2016 report, Australia's aged care sector: economic contribution and future directions for the Aged Care Guild, and for government, such as shadow production of the 2015 and 2016 Aged Care Financing Authority's Annual Reports on the funding and financing of the aged care sector and modelling support for the 2018 Budget initiatives. We also assist other parts of Deloitte in monitoring prudential risks to sector sustainability and financing, service quality and consumer care, as the sector transforms itself towards a system more geared towards choice and control with the right services in the right place at the right time for the right price.
Playing a part in bridging the gap
Fairness, equality of opportunity and restitution for our first people is one of the most important and difficult challenges facing Australia. Since 2006, Deloitte Access Economics has played a role in policy and impact analysis, advising government on a range of measures both proposed and introduced to bridge the gap between outcomes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
This work started in the health space when we were approached by an Indigenous coalition to examine the costs and benefits of introducing fuel without aromatic hydrocarbons to address petrol sniffing across central Australia. In 2012 we estimated the financial, health and mortality benefits of diverting Indigenous offenders from prison to community rehabilitation. Another important example is estimating the economic benefits of closing the gap in Indigenous employment outcomes.
One of the most important projects we have done is the Review of Native Title Organisations in 2014 which continues to be reflected in policy today. Commissioned by the Australian Government, the report addressed policy issues relevant to the roles and functions of native title representative bodies and native title service providers. Our work on Indigenous issues has seen us do more in this space under our Reconciliation Action Plan and through the Indigenous Reference Group that has been working to COAG to promote economic development in Northern Australia.
Deloitte Access Economics has been at the forefront of Australia's endeavours to improve the outcomes that the nation's $50 billion investment in school funding delivers.
Appointed as one of the lead advisors to the 2011 Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling, (Deloitte) Access Economics seized on this high profile national opportunity to establish itself as one of Australia's foremost advisors on school funding model design. Our advice is evident not just in the approach taken by the Commonwealth Government, but in the funding models adopted by several of Australia's state governments. Deloitte Access Economics has undertaken major reviews in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria and in each of these jurisdictions the influence of our work can be seen in the incremental improvements that are being achieved.
The new methods we have pioneered for capturing efficiency and educational need in school funding models are not just being practically implemented by policymakers, but are being recognised across the academic community. In fact our latest thinking will shortly be published in a peer reviewed journal.
Combined with our work demonstrating the socio-economic impact of school quality Deloitte Access Economics' advice on the design of funding models for schooling continues to support the improvement in the outcomes our schooling system is delivering.
There are few sectors in which (Deloitte) Access Economics has had a more sustained impact than tourism. In fact, the firm helped pioneer the economic accounting framework that measures the value of tourism to the nation (known as the Tourism Satellite Account). In 2017, we took this work to levels never before contemplated when we completed the colossal task of compiling Australia's first regional tourism satellite account.
(Deloitte) Access Economics has also been instrumental to Australia's strategy for growing and enhancing the nation's tourism sector. Among a suite of contributions to tourism strategy across the nation, our 2008 appointment as sole advisor to the development of Australia's National Long Term Tourism Strategy saw us undertake a series of assignments on the formulation of the Strategy. This work was followed by a series of influential analyses to inform the design, implementation and monitoring of the strategy, including modelling its economic benefits, analysing the associated infrastructure requirements and modelling its national labour force implications. Earlier this year, Deloitte Access Economics was fortunate to again be appointed to advise on Australia's strategy for growing tourism, in the context of the nation's new strategy: Tourism2030.
In 2012, we saw an opportunity to expand our reach and impact in the sector via the introduction of our Tourism and Hotel Market Outlook publication. The publication took two in-house models that we'd long been honing and refining and utilised them as a basis for generating national tourism and hotel market forecasts. It has since become a highly respected and widely quoted source of authoritative analysis.
Supporting the super annuation system
As part of a wide reform package addressing Australia's retirement income dilemma, the government introduced the compulsory employer contribution scheme for superannuation. At the time, the industry was looking for forward looking analysis to support their view that the super system needed higher contributions, lower taxes, or both in order to provide adequate retirement incomes. We made several contributions to the development and implementation of the scheme, including; creating the SuperSim model of the superannuation system to examine changes to tax arrangements for the then IFSA (now FSC); developing the AMP Superannuation Adequacy Index; and using the SuperSim model to inform a range of submissions to the Henry Tax Review for Challenger, the AIST, the Industry Super Network and AMP.
The Australia's Future Tax System Review, informally known as the Henry Tax Review was commissioned by the Rudd Government in 2008 and published in 2010. The review was intended to guide tax system reforms over the next 10 to 20 years. In our submissions to that Review, we pointed out that average outcomes from the system were close to adequate and that an increase in the mandatory rate of super contributions wasn't needed (a view shared by the Henry Review). We argued that the removal of taxes on superannuation benefits was a mistake, and that new measures were needed to improve the fairness of the super system. This was also a view shared by the Henry Review, and policy changes have been moving in this direction for some time. We also argued in favour of improvements in the way longevity risk is addressed in the super system, resulting in government policies aimed at addressing this issue being recommended by the Henry Review.
This is still a work in progress – Australia could support retirement incomes in smarter and fairer ways than we do – but Deloitte Access Economics has been a key supporter of moves towards improving our current systems.
Putting rigour into migration analysis
From 2001, Access Economics developed a model to look at the fiscal contribution (to the Federal budget) of international migrants to Australia. This was followed over the next few years with reports looking at the impact of migration on State/Territory budgets, analysis of temporary migrants as well as permanent migrants, and full life cycle projections. The relevant Federal Department has commissioned us for additional analysis over the years, including a full scale refresh of the analysis in 2015, extending to the second generation of migrants as well. We have also undertaken a range of analysis focusing specifically on refugees, and the factors which drive successful settlement.
These reports were influential in gaining support for a migration program in Australia which is large by international standards, and which is targeted towards enhancing economic welfare for Australians i.e. the shift towards a higher skills based component over time.
Australia's permanent migration program expanded from around 80,000 migrants in 2000-01, to well over 160,000 by 2008-09 – a very significant expansion. Since that time it has kept reasonably steady as a share of the overall population.