Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie’s views on the precarious state of Australia’s economy are well known, and he is now urging Treasurer Scott Morrison to use the Budget to “radically rethink” how government manages its finances.
He wants a dramatically smaller government, and the adoption of an approach to spending that is rational, pragmatic and prudent.
“We desperately need to make a radical change about the way we think the finances of this country. We need to stop the welfare and transfer payments that are being made, because it’s basically the efforts by government to buy votes for the next election. It’s completely unsustainable,” he told InnovationAus.com.
Mr Barrie said while he does not entirely agree with Senator David Leyonhjelm’s alternative Budget, but says it contains pragmatic proposals that are worthy of wider discussion.
Some of the suggestions made by Senator Leyonhjelm include making cuts across several government agencies and public services, as well as defunding of government-owned businesses like the CSIRO, ABC, SBS, Austrade, and Tourism Australia.
The government must dramatically reduce spending now, or be forced to take even more radical cuts later when the nation’s economic circumstances go south.
“I don’t agree with everything [Senator Leyonhjelm says], but if we don’t go on the path that he has proposed, we will be forced to do it anyway in a few years when everything craters. And everything is going to crater,” he said.
An area that Mr Barrie does disagree with is the suggestion to eliminate free education, saying there are valid reasons for certain fields of education to be exempt or at least subsidised. “Purely because down the track you will benefit from tax receipts and from both the income and companies that these educated people will produce in certain areas,” he said.
Specifically on CSIRO – Australia’s only research institution – Mr Barrie said he wants to see more business cases behind the scientific endeavours that are carried out, but noted that not all projects need a business case because of the potential long-term pay offs.
He questions government support programs for incubators and sponsoring co-working spaces, saying while “government has good intentions around certain programs, I don’t think they are doing things in the right way.”
He flagged, as an example, how the government wants to encourage more people to take up engineering and science, but points to how “the next thing is they fund the Australian Computer Society to spend millions of dollars on brochures.”
“If we have to make cuts across the board we should take a look at the funding made in these areas. There are efficient ways you can get economic benefit from government assistance and some ways I think are waste of money,” Mr Barrie said.
“I don’t think government funding for incubators will generate much return and there are a lot of incubators and co-working spaces out there. It’s just a matter of the current context and we can’t afford to keep handing money to everyone.”