CEDA CEO update: 1 March 2021

CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento says that attracting and training a skilled workforce is the key to effectively responding to the Aged Care Royal Commission. 

We begin this week with the sobering final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. It is difficult reading. As the commissioners say: "The extent of substandard care in Australia’s aged care system reflects both poor quality on the part of some aged care providers and fundamental systemic flaws with the way the Australian aged care system is designed and governed. People receiving aged care deserve better. The Australian community is entitled to expect better." I note the Federal Government has today committed almost $452 million in an immediate response to the report’s 148 recommendations. 

Among their many recommendations, the commissioners have called for the establishment of a new Australian Aged Care Commission which would, among other duties, oversee workforce planning and development, including setting and refining requirements for minimum staffing levels and qualifications for care staff. As our Senior Economist Cassandra Winzar wrote in our 2021 Economic and Political Overview, it will be a challenge to attract, train and adequately pay the required number of workers, especially with reduced levels of migration due to COVID-19. Federal support will be necessary to increase the workforce, including subsidies for training and development. This will also have the added benefit of boosting aggregate employment. 

On the topic of employment, I note research today by PwC, which suggests reports of the “death of the CBD” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have been greatly exaggerated. The report finds that the CBD is not dying, rather, it is changing form. In particular, it notes that as larger CBD tenants reduce floorspace due to flexible working, city centres are attracting a new wave of smaller businesses. The report finds this could “create communities that revitalise the city, sparking new collaborations and fresh energy. This injection of innovation and entrepreneurship is poised to set the stage for future growth.”

These findings reflect the conversations at our Lord Mayors’ panel last week. Our panellists were optimistic about the prospects for our biggest cities, despite the economic damage caused by lockdowns. City of Sydney Lord Mayor told the livestream it was an overstatement to suggest the pandemic had led to the demise of urban cities. Cr Moore said she strongly believes our cities will remain the engine rooms of our economy, centres of government, education, and culture. City of Adelaide Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor told the audience that as people rethink what they want their lives to be, Australian cities offer lifestyles that other parts of the world cannot. And City of Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds told the audience that Hobart had both the lowest level of office vacancies during the pandemic, and the best year of planning applications for medium density residentials in the CBD, during the lockdown. 

On that note, we are thrilled to have today hosted our first public face-to-face event in Queensland for the year in the heart of Brisbane’s CBD. Our annual Queensland Vice Chancellors’ panel was a timely discussion that canvassed a range of topics including universities’ calls for a safe plan to bring international students back to Australia, as well as the Federal Government’s suggestion last week that future government grants to universities could be tied to increasing the commercialisation of their research.

While it is important to focus on how to drive the economic recovery in the near term, we must keep our eyes on horizons further ahead. CEDA’s March Quarter economic briefing, available in mid-March, will examine the longer-term trends to watch. This briefing will look at how uneven the economic recovery has been so far across sectors and regions. It will also examine the true impact of Chinese trade tensions, as well as the findings of the aged care royal commission and upcoming capacity and delivery pressures in public infrastructure, amid signs we lack the workforce and skills to deliver these enormous projects on time and on budget. If you would like to receive a more detailed and tailored briefing from our research team, please send us an email.

As we look ahead to the longer-term recovery, we are delighted to confirm our annual State of the Nation event for 2021 will take place on 23-25 June. This year’s forum will include a conference dinner, a full-day face-to-face forum at Parliament House in Canberra and a half-day livestream forum. This year’s theme is Conversations for the future and will explore topics including: Australia and Asia; migration, population and skills shortages; cyber security; rethinking tertiary education; and sustainable infrastructure. A range of sponsorship opportunities is available to CEDA members providing high-level engagement, profiling and networking. You can find the prospectus here. Contact your membership manager or conference manager Sharon Braun to learn more. 

As part of CEDA’s support of International Women’s Day, our board member Miriam Silva is speaking at the Australian Human Resources Institute’s (AHRI) International Women’s Day Virtual Event on Tuesday 9 March. The event will also feature US journalist and workplace equality advocate Gretchen Carlson in conversation with ABC 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales. CEDA members can access a special rate to attend the event at this link using the code AHRI-IWD-CEDA.

Finally, I’ll be speaking on Day One of the AFR Business Summit on a panel discussing the Future of Work on Tuesday 9 March alongside Mirvac Chief Executive Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, Expert 360 Chief Executive Bridget Loudon and Business Council of Australia President Tim Reed.


Hear directly from the Federal Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Senator Richard Colbeck, as he joins us on Friday 12 March to outline the Federal Government’s response to the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and how it will improve aged-care services and outcomes. Supported by Nous Group and Westpac. Register to attend the livestream Aged care royal commission: the way forward  here

Further ahead, join our South Australian Vice Chancellors’ Panel on Thursday 8 April, as vice chancellors from The University of Adelaide, University of SA, Torrens University and Flinders University discuss how they will ensure their businesses remain resilient and sustainable as COVID-19 continues to challenge the higher education sector. This event is supported by UniSuper. Register to attend here.

In the latest episode of our video series One Question With, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims answers questions from members fresh from delivering his annual CEDA keynote address. Watch it here.


In the latest episode of our podcast series The Greater Good, I caught up with Health Justice Australia’s founding Chief Executive Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that health problems don’t happen in isolation. Our physical wellbeing often depends on our economic and social wellbeing, and vice versa. Dr Boyd-Caine works to connect healthcare and legal assistance, and to give people access to help for their problems when and where they need it. Listen here.


A big welcome to our two new members this week – we are thrilled to have you join the CEDA community. And a big thank you to each of our renewing members this week.

New members 

Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries

GJK Facility Services

Renewing national members


Esri Australia

Newgate Australia

Renewing corporate members

Clean Energy Finance Corporation

Mornington Peninsula Shire Council

Strategic Project Partners

TransAlta Energy

Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance

Renewing business members

Anglicare SA

Churchill Consulting



This will be my final weekly CEO Update for now. From 15 March, I will send these updates every two weeks. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic we decided to send these newsletters weekly, when there was strong demand for information. Now that things are slowly starting to return to normal, we have decided to scale back our communications. We can revert to a weekly email if circumstances change, and based on member feedback.

As always, stay safe.

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.;