Tony Shepherd. Photo: Nic Walker
The Commission of Audit, the group tasked by the federal government with identifying opportunities to sell public assets and slash government spending, has held meetings with SBS and Australia Post.
The head of the Audit, Tony Shepherd, also told a senate inquiry that the Commission ''probably may consider'' recommending that the GST be raised or its based broadened.
Questioned on potential privatisations, Mr Shepherd revealed that audit commissioners would meet representatives of the National Disability Insurance Scheme this week. Treasurer Joe Hockey last year raised the prospect of Medibank Private taking on the administration of the NDIS.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was apparent the government was now considering selling off the NDIS. The government plans to sell Medibank Private but Mr Shepherd said no meetings had yet been held with the health insurer.
Mr Shepherd would not comment on a suggestion by Labor senator Sam Dastyari that the only reasons to meet SBS was because it was either ''on the block'' for sale or that its part-private funding model could be replicated at the ABC. Mr Shepherd said SBS, which receives two-thirds of its $270 million funding from the federal government, had requested the meeting.
The government has played down suggestions that Australia Post could be sold off but the commissioners, who are struggling to meet a ''tight'' deadline to make an interim report to government by the end of January, also met its management.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has ruled out any changes to the GST but Mr Shepherd, who has advocated raising the level of the tax in his role as chairman of the Business Council, said ''everything is on the table''.
Mr Shepherd told the inquiry that cuts had to be found to counter the ageing population, poor productivity and a persistently high Australian dollar.
''This situation is not going to fix itself. The magic pudding is a fable,'' he said.
Labor and Greens members of the committee, who have been accused of trying to make political mileage out of the Audit process, leapt on evidence that government ministers had directed the Commission of Audit since drawing up the terms of reference.
At the beginning of the inquiry hearing, Mr Shepherd said there had been no interference from the government. He later apologised when a letter from Mr Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann was produced by Audit secretary Peter Crone.
The letter, which began ''Further to the terms of reference, I am writing to provide guidance'', alerted the Commission to government plans to cut public service jobs by 12,000.
Mr Shepherd revealed that the Commission may seek an extension as it struggles to finalise an interim report by the end of January. Another report is due by late March but Mr Hockey will keep all recommendations secret until after he delivers his first budget in May.
The ACTU called for the public release of all 300 submissions the Commission has received.