Major tax reform will have to wait: Hockey

The federal opposition has again homed in on the poor state of the budget to play down expectations for the first term of a coalition government.

Aside from ditching the carbon and mining taxes as promised, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey has warned there is little to room to move further on tax reform.

But Mr Hockey on Friday assured a conference in Sydney this would not rule out system-wide reforms if the coalition won a further term in government.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had dampened expectations on Thursday about what the coalition might be able to achieve immediately if it won next year's election, owing to the poor state of the budget.

On Friday, Mr Hockey attacked Labor's "shambolic approach" to tax reform, saying it was damaging Australia's reputation.

"Our country needs a government that has a consistent, transparent, logical and predictable approach on taxation reform if it wishes to build business and investment confidence," Mr Hockey told the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia (ICAA) national conference.

The first priority for an incoming coalition government would be to get the budget back under control and abolish Labor's carbon and mining taxes.

"The fiscal position we are likely to inherit after the election limits the scope and scale of tax reform that we would be able to achieve in a first term of government," Mr Hockey said.

"That is not to say that there will never be the opportunity for system-wide tax reform in a further term of a coalition government."

Mr Hockey said a first-term coalition government would still improve the current system of tax administration at the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

"Many of you are telling me that the government's ad hoc and inconsistent approach to policy implementation has seeped into the ATO's dealings with business," he said.

A senior official at the ICAA, Yasser El-Ansary, said businesses needed confidence in fiscal policy to invest, innovate and enhance productivity across the Australian economy.

"When developing policy, the focus needs to be on achieving long-term gains for the benefit of the community - not on simply ticking the 'surplus' box," Mr El-Ansary said in a statement.

He said a lot of policy changes at the moment were focused on "papering over the cracks" in the tax system.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Penny Wong released a paper setting out a number of proposed changes to the financial framework of the commonwealth public service aimed at boosting productivity, efficiency and performance.

"The current financial framework is nearly 20 years-old, and while it has met the requirements of government to date, reform is necessary to meet future needs," Senator Wong said in a statement.

Mr El-Ansary said there were increasing demands on governments to deliver spending programs that assisted with the structural change that was taking place in our economy.

"Governments are expected to do more with less," he said.

"If we're going to be able to meet the challenges confronting us in the future, we need a strong public sector financial framework in place to support the broader economy."

Submissions on the position paper are due before February 18, 2013.

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