CEDA CEO update: 19 October 2020

CEDA continues legacy of pursuing key national debates on 60th anniversary of first meeting, shares CEDA CEO, Melinda Cilento.

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the inaugural CEDA meeting, held in the boardroom of the Victorian Employers’ Federation in Melbourne, on October 21, 1960. The distinguished economist and academic Sir Douglas Berry Copland founded CEDA after he recognised the need for an independent body focused on Australia’s longer-term economic development and international engagement. He believed Australia needed to be more than a quarry and a sheep run, and that Australian business leaders should be in dialogue with their counterparts in academia, unions and government.
As CEDA’s National Chairman Diane Smith-Gander told the audience at our annual Copland Lecture, delivered by former foreign minister the Hon. Julie Bishop last week, there has never been a time in CEDA’s history when it has been more needed than today. As Diane said, CEDA has maintained relevance and reach over six decades. Firstly, by recognising and building on its ability to bring together the most diverse group of any think tank or peak body for real conversations based on real information. And then by recognising members join CEDA because of our independence – members do not arrive on the horse of self-interest – because CEDA is non-partisan and never offers to promote members’ self-interest. Our sustainability over six decades comes back to the quality of our members, what we choose to talk about when we are together and how we carry on those conversations.

To mark this anniversary, we gathered the reflections of several of CEDA’s past chairmen including Tim BesleyWalter UhlenbruchBruce KeanIvan DevesonPaul McClintock and current chairman Diane Smith-Gander

Consistent with this legacy, over the last week we delivered a strong program of events addressing the key economic issues for the nation. This included my post-budget conversation with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg about his vision for returning the economy to a path of sustainable growth as we emerge from the COVID-19 recession. The Treasurer told me his top priority was providing stimulus to the economy to create jobs and drive down the unemployment rate.

CEDA Chief Economist Jarrod Ball spoke with Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers, who outlined Labor’s priorities to kickstart the economic recovery, including re-imagining the future through public investment and helping business to thrive. After the event, Jim took part in our new video series One Question With… take a look at his answers here

And on Friday, as noted above, former foreign minister the Hon. Julie Bishop delivered CEDA’s annual Copland lecture with an important speech on strategic and ethical leadership. She told the event she believes great leadership comes when leaders understand the consequences of their decisions. She also highlighted megatrends such as climate change, technological change and the relationship between the US and China as some of the other major challenges for our leaders beyond the pandemic.
In amongst this busy week, we also heard from CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall, NBN Co Chief Executive Stephen Rue and AustCyber Chief Executive Michelle Price on the important topic of the role of data, science and technology in innovation and digital transformation, and how sound data analysis can support industries after the pandemic.

Last week I also took part in the Chief Executive Women post-budget roundtable. In that conversation I highlighted that the Federal Government’s plan to retain its 23.9 per cent cap on the tax-to-GDP ratio as part of its medium-term fiscal strategy suggests there will be significant cuts to public spending down the track. Such spending constraint will present significant challenges, particularly in the face of an ageing population, and will likely require innovation in the delivery of essential public services. One area relevant to this that CEDA will be exploring in its research program is the digitisation of human services. Look out for that research in the next month.

The importance of making the most of the opportunities presented by digitisation and emerging technology is an issue CEDA is prioritising. While there is optimism about future opportunities, there is also uncertainty about the potential impacts of digitisation and new technologies. Bringing the community with us as we look to make the most of new opportunities is critical. CEDA’s Public Interest Technology program seeks to advance a national cross-sector discussion and agenda that puts people and the public interest at the heart of technology, by promoting the development, take-up and use of technology and data to support a successful dynamic economy that maximises the benefit for individual and community choice, opportunity and wellbeing. We are developing an exciting program for a public forum to be held in late November and will have more to say about that in coming weeks.

Finally, it is great to see the relaxing of some restrictions for households and businesses in Victoria as COVID-19 case numbers in that state continue to fall. These changes will go some way to lifting the spirits of many Victorians after months of tight restrictions on economic and social activity. It is understandable that business is keen to get back to work as soon as possible and feels some frustration about the pace of these changes. We know the Premier is focused squarely on doing the right thing for all Victorians, but also hope we can get the broader economy up and running as soon as possible. 
On that point, it is fantastic to see the innovative thinking that is taking place around revitalising Melbourne's CBD. It is important to put such policies into place proactively, and we welcome the focus on how to use public space in new ways to encourage people safely back into the city.

Next week, join us in Perth on Tuesday 27 October for a face-to-face event as the Women in Leadership series returns for 2020. There is a growing recognition that leaders must drive inclusive behaviour, however it’s now time to see results. At this event we will explore research and leading thinking on how to design organisation-wide gender strategies, shift attitudes and behaviours and engage others to bring change. Speakers include: Empire Barristers & Solicitors Director Prue Hawkins; WA Public Sector Commission Commissioner Sharyn O'Neill; and Western Australian Aboriginal Leadership Institute (WAALI) Co-Chairperson Robyn Smith-Walley, Co-Chairperson. Register here.

Still in the West, join West Australian Treasurer Ben Wyatt on Friday 30 October, as he outlines his priorities, plans and policies for his state’s recovery after handing down his state budget. Successful recovery will require a focus on job creation, restoring business and consumer confidence and programs to support key sectors, regions and those parts of society hardest hit by COVID-19. The $5.5 billion WA Recovery Plan identifies 21 priority streams and outlines the state’s strategy to reposition itself and recuperate post pandemic. He’ll be joined by CEDA National Chairman Diane Smith-Gander AO. Register here.

Further ahead, CEDA welcomes members and guests from across the country to hear NSW Premier, the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, deliver the 2020 State of the State address on Thursday 5 November. NSW is a half a trillion-dollar economy. Its ability to navigate and recover from the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has implications for the future of the state and national economy. In her address the Premier will outline the Government’s forward agenda, its policy priorities, investment and spending and plans for the future. Register here.

CEDA Chief Economist Jarrod Ball welcomes CEDA's new Perth-based Senior Economist Cassandra Winzar to talk about her background, how Western Australia is coping economically through the pandemic and the recent WA state budget. Listen here.

This week, I wrote a piece arguing the Federal Government must outline a vision for digitising the Australian economy to unlock the dynamism and productivity that we will need to foster sustainable, long-term growth. Read that here.

Also on the blog this week, KPMG Global Head of Tax and Legal, David Linke, writes that while the COVID-19 recession means we need reform now more than ever, the Federal Budget shows reform is now more difficult. Read more here
Thank you to all of our renewing state and national members this week.

Renewing national member

Renewing state members
Bond University (QLD)
City of Melbourne (VIC)
RPS AAP Consulting (NSW/VIC)
Suncare Community Services (QLD)

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.;