CEDA CEO update: 15 February 2021

CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento discusses the upcoming Economic and Political Outlook (EPO) 2021 digital forum and argues in support of the streamlined, higher rate of JobSeeker that is reported to be under consideration by the Federal Government. 

This week brings the launch of CEDA’s annual program of research and events with our two-day Economic and Political Outlook (EPO) 2021 digital forum and trustee events. I’m looking forward to hearing the insights and perspectives of all of our speakers, and I'm especially keen to hear from our keynote speaker, Australia's Ambassador to the United States, The Hon. Arthur Sinodinos, on Wednesday, day two of EPO. Now that former US President Donald Trump has been acquitted in his second Senate impeachment trial, it is time to put the Trump era behind us as best we can, and shift focus to the future and what to expect from the Biden presidency over the next four years. Ambassador Sinodinos will share his insights on that, and other important issues in US-Australia relations, followed by a Q&A session moderated by ABC Insiders Host David Speers.

The EPO 2021 report will be launched tomorrow morning on our website.

While I am looking forward to the EPO, I am very disappointed not to be able to enjoy the event with CEDA trustees in Brisbane as originally planned. As the CEDA Melbourne team and the rest of Victoria awaits the end of its third COVID-19 lockdown, there are many questions around the outlook for the year ahead here and around the nation, including the vaccine rollout. To help unpack the key issues and opportunities on the domestic and international horizon we have gathered a fantastic line-up of experts for this year’s EPO. See below for more details on speakers for this event.

Speaking of COVID-19 and lockdowns, it is pleasing to see more focus on how best to replace the JobSeeker unemployment benefit and what further support may be needed once the JobKeeper wage subsidy is withdrawn at the end of March. Despite a recent run of better-than-expected economic data, and rising confidence and activity, there will likely be continued need for targeted support after March. There are still 912,000 unemployed and 1,181,100 underemployed Australians, and considerable uncertainties remain for key sectors while international borders remain effectively closed. The Federal and state governments should continue to focus on how best to provide targeted and effective support for the hardest-hit industries such as hospitality, tourism, education and aviation and their employees.

In the case of JobSeeker, reports today suggest the Federal Government is considering streamlining the benefits into a single, higher JobSeeker payment. This was a recommendation of the McClure review of Australia’s welfare system released back in 2015. Unfortunately, many of the problems Patrick McClure identified in that review have only worsened. For many years now, unemployment benefits in Australia have been inadequate – a point now almost universally accepted. JobSeeker must be increased to a level sufficient to let people cover the basic costs of finding and securing a job in an increasingly digital world, and to enable their children to effectively participate in digital education. At a minimum, that means payments need to be sufficient to cover not only food, clothing and shelter but also the requirements for digital connectivity, including at the least a phone and reliable internet access.

Back to Victoria and the latest lockdown, which coming after recent lockdowns in NSW, Queensland and WA, again raises concerns about the ad-hoc nature of the way states and territories are deciding when and for how long to introduce lockdowns and border closures in response to new COVID-19 outbreaks. We need more consistency around hotspot definitions and lockdown durations.

This all comes down to an effective National Cabinet. Our Chief Economist Jarrod Ball looked at the workings of National Cabinet, and how to optimise it, in Australia’s Federation: Post-pandemic playbook last year. He spoke to The Age’s Rob Harris about this in a story about the rise in state parochialism for the Nine newspapers on the weekend here. Look out for more on National Cabinet from us in the next month as we mark one year since the Cabinet was established.

 As mentioned above, CEDA’s two-day 2021 Economic and Political Outlook (EPO) digital forum takes place over two days on Tuesday February 16 and Wednesday February 17. In addition to keynote speaker The Hon. Arthur Sinodinos, in conversation with ABC Insiders Host David Speers, speakers include:

  • 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.

Next week, CEDA welcomes ACCC Chairman Rod Sims on Tuesday February 23 as he outlines his priorities for the competition regulator for the year ahead in his annual ACCC enforcement and compliance policy update for 2021. We have new seats available at the face-to-face event due to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Sydney. This traditionally face-to-face only event will also be accessible nationwide for the first time via livestream. I’m sure there will be lots of interest, not least regarding the media bargaining code. Thanks to Gilbert + Tobin for sponsoring this event. Register to attend in-person in Sydney here or for the livestream here.

On Thursday February 25, join the first event in CEDA’s new human services series. Human services: health and technology will explore how new technologies and advances in AI are driving transformation across public health, mental health and social services. Thanks to Microsoft for supporting this issue and sponsoring this event. 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.

And on Friday February 26, join us for the Lord Mayors’ panel – The future of Australian cities. Australian cities have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. Join City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp, City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and City of Adelaide Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor as they outline their plans to reactivate their economies and optimise their urban centres while recovering from COVID-19. Aurecon is our sponsor for this event. Register to attend here.

In today’s episode of our podcast series The Economists’ Corner, CEDA Chief Economist Jarrod Ball and I are joined by Victoria University Professor of International Sport Business Hans Westerbeek, to take a deep dive into sport, money and COVID-19, to find out how the business and economics of sport look in the new COVID normal. From the Olympics to Formula 1, from cricket to the NBA, and of course the Australian Open tennis, no major sport has been untouched by this pandemic. Listen here.

On the blog today, Pollination Senior Partner and former Australian Ambassador for the Environment, Patrick Suckling, unpacks the global movement towards green investment. He says that for governments around the world, COVID-19 economic recovery presents an opportunity to reap the “double-dividend” of investing in growth and jobs and transitioning to more climate-resilient economies. You can read that article here.

A big thank you to each of our renewing members this week.

Renewing national members
Arcadis Australia Pacific
Programmed Group

Renewing corporate members
City of Wanneroo
Colin Biggers & Paisley
Future Fund
Hall + Prior Aged Care Group
NSW Treasury
Water Corporation

Renewing business members
Aged and Community Services Australia
Ambulance Victoria

Thanks everyone for your support and interest in CEDA, and enjoy the EPO.

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.;