CEDA CEO update: 1 February 2021

CEDA looks ahead to the big conversations of 2021, writes CEO Melinda Cilento.


It’s great to be back after the summer break and writing my first CEO update for 2021. I hope you managed to find time to relax and refresh after what was a tough year.

While we at CEDA did manage a slightly longer break, we have also been very focussed on gearing up for 2021. Our 2021 events program kicked off last week with an insightful presentation from Telstra chief executive Andy Penn on the workplace of the future, and there’s much more to come in the weeks and months ahead.

In two weeks, we launch our 2021 Economic and Political Outlook (EPO) with a two-day digital forum and series of trustee events around the country. After the tumultuous last 12 months there are certainly plenty of questions surrounding the outlook for the year ahead. To help unpack the key issues and challenges on the domestic and international horizon we are bringing together a fantastic line-up of experts including, notably, our keynote speaker, Australia's Ambassador to the United States, The Hon. Arthur Sinodinos. Arthur will be interviewed by Stan Grant, the ABC’s International Affairs Analyst, and they will be joined over the two days by:

  • Professor Caitlin Byrne, Director, Griffith Asia Institute
  • Phillip Coorey, Political Editor, The Australian Financial Review
  • Professor Jane Golley, Director, Australian Centre on China in the World, Australian National University
  • Nicki Hutley, Independent Economist
  • Laura Jayes, Political Reporter, Sky News
  • Fran Kelly, Presenter, RN Breakfast, ABC
  • Mukund Narayanamurti, Chief Executive Officer, Asialink Business
  • Dr Peter van Onselen, Political Editor, Network 10, Professor of Politics, Griffith University and University of Western Australia
  • Alan Oster, Group Chief Economist, NAB
  • Richard Yetsenga, Chief Economist, ANZ Banking Group
Register for the livestream here.

EPO will set the scene for the events our programming team has lined up for the months ahead on six strategically important themes we have identified as key conversations for 2021, including:

  • Climate change – resilience and opportunity
  • Infrastructure – reshaped needs and expectations
  • Human Services – new approaches, better outcomes
  • Workforce and workplace – jobs, agility and transformation
  • Recovery and reinvention
  • Global uncertainty and opportunity
While we’re talking about setting the scene, it was great to hear Prime Minister Scott Morrison outline his vision for the year ahead at the National Press Club today.

The last year has shown we can make enormous and rapid changes to how we live and work. The Federal Government has been responsive and agile and has worked constructively with the states and territories on many fronts. Now, as many Australians face great uncertainty with the winding back of income support like the JobKeeper wage subsidy and the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement, we need an ambitious, forward-looking reform agenda that provides confidence in our ability to continue to manage in an uncertain world. There are plenty of challenges but also important opportunities that we should be proactive in seizing.

Strong leadership on the path to becoming a leading digital nation, climate change, and progressing skills reform as outlined by the Prime Minister today, are important areas to focus on. I would also stress the importance of skilled migration. Migration has been a fundamental driver of Australia’s prosperity and a source of critical skills. At a time when members are already reporting important skills shortages, we are keen to hear more on the Government’s migration plans when borders eventually re-open.

On climate, the Prime Minister says his Government’s goal is to reach net zero emissions “as soon as possible, and preferably by 2050”. I look forward to learning more about what the path to net zero looks like, the policy settings that will get us there, and what role Australia plans to play internationally now that the US has re-joined the Paris climate agreement.

Copland Leadership Program
While on the topic of leadership, it would be remiss of me not to promote the fact that CEDA is accepting applications for our Copland Leadership Programs in New South Wales and Western Australia.

In NSW, we have confirmed Committee for Sydney Chairman Michael Rose as the opening speaker. The program provides unique insights on many leadership challenges as well as the opportunity for personal mentoring with an experienced business leader. It starts on March 2 and runs for three fortnightly sessions. Applications close on February 16. More information is available here or email Julia Tolj.

In WA, our leadership program will run over six months from April to September. Speakers include Thrive by Five Chief Executive and former South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill. Applications close on March 15. More information is available here or email Julia Tolj.

Finally, the CEDA team has been hard at work on a new website that we hope will make it easier for members to deepen their engagement with our work. Look out for the new site in the next couple of weeks.

As mentioned above, join CEDA’s two-day EPO forum on Tuesday February 16 and Wednesday February 17 to hear expert analysis of the critical domestic and international issues we will face this year. Register for the livestream here.

Later this month, CEDA welcomes ACCC Chairman Rod Sims as he outlines his priorities for the competition regulator for the year ahead in his annual ACCC enforcement and compliance policy update for 2021 on Tuesday February 23. This will be a hybrid event. Register to attend in-person in Sydney here or for the livestream here.

And on Thursday February 25, join the first event in CEDA’s new human services series. Human services: health and technology will explore the transformation of Australia’s healthcare system, including how technology is improving care, service provisioning and patient outcomes, and how to ensure sustainability and affordability. 

Speakers include: Telstra Health Managing Director Professor Mary Foley; KPMG Global Lead, Health Analytics Evan Rawstron; and Microsoft Australia Chief Medical Officer Dr Nic Woods. Register to attend here.

In the latest episode of our podcast series The Greater Good, I was joined by Dr Stephen Kirchner of the United States Study Centre to discuss US President Joe Biden’s inauguration. We talked stimulus, policy uncertainty, increasing the minimum wage and the US shift on climate change. Listen here.

In a new episode of The Economists’ Corner, CEDA Chief Economist Jarrod Ball was joined by BIS Oxford Economics Chief Economist Sarah Hunter to discuss the state of the Australian economy at the start of 2021. They talked about household spending, jobs, income support and silver linings amid the economic certainty. Listen here.

On the blog today, RMIT Centre for Innovative Justice Associate Director of Research, Advocacy & Policy Elena Campbell talks about the costs and consequences of Australia’s skyrocketing rates of women’s incarceration. She shows how taking a more sustainable and humane approach to women’s offending could limit disadvantage and free up crucial resources for Australia’s economic recovery. Read more here.

Thank you to all of our new and renewing members. What a nice way to start the year!

New member
Q-bital Healthcare Solutions

Renewing national members
Australian Catholic University
Australian Institute of Company Directors
Australian Rail Track Corporation
BP Australia
National Disability Insurance Agency

Renewing corporate members
Arc Infrastructure
Coopers Brewery
Essential Energy
Heart Foundation
Heritage Bank
Johnson & Johnson
Partners in Performance
SA Power Networks
The University of Adelaide
United Overseas Bank
University of Technology Sydney
University of the Sunshine Coast
WA Transport Portfolio

Renewing business members
Brightwater Care Group
Goodstart Early Learning
Green Building Council of Australia
Health Partners
HomeStart Finance
Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office
Infrastructure and Project Financing Agency
Liverpool City Council
Morton Philips
Penrith City Council
Queensland Resources Council
SA Ambulance Service
US Consulate General Sydney
Western Australian Treasury Corporation

As always, stay safe, and I look forward to catching up with many of you in person in the months ahead.

Melinda Cilento

About CEDA

CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development of Australia – is an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation.

We identify policy issues that matter for Australia’s future. We work to drive policies that deliver better economic, social and environmental outcomes for Australia. We deliver on our purpose by: Leveraging insights from our members to identify and understand the most important issues Australia faces. Facilitating collaboration and idea sharing to invoke imaginative, innovative and progressive policy solutions. Providing a platform to stimulate thinking, raise new ideas and debate critical and challenging issues. Influencing decision makers in government, business and the community by delivering objective information and expert analysis and advocating in support of our positions. CEDA's membership spans every state and territory and includes Australia's leading businesses, community organisations, government departments and academic institutions. The organisation was founded in 1960 by leading economist Sir Douglas Copland, and his legacy of applying economic analysis to practical problems to aid the development of Australia continues as we celebrate 60 years of influence, reform and impact across the nation.;