CEDA CEO update: 8 February 2021

Climate change and digital technology bring opportunities for economic reinvention, writes CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento. 

As 2021 gets into full swing, the political and policy focus is turning increasingly to what sustained economic recovery looks like. Governments of all levels need to remain agile in managing the occasional COVID-19 outbreak, but attention is clearly shifting from reactive to proactive – to longer horizon policy priorities and agendas.

With the next Federal Budget now clearly in frame, we are starting to hear more calls for more ambitious reform. There is a familiar refrain to some of these calls, particularly as they relate to tax and industrial relations reform. As we consider these ideas, the critical question is what role they will play in sustainably lifting business and consumer confidence, job creation and workforce participation, and driving longer-term opportunity and activity.

We believe these objectives will be best addressed by reforms that aim to reinvent – not simply rebuild – economic prosperity in Australia, framed by an intent to make the most of emerging digital and data opportunities, to address the challenges and needs of an ageing population, and to embrace the opportunities of a more ambitious approach to climate change through emissions reduction and adaptation.

CEDA has previously called for the introduction of an enhanced whole-of-federation intergenerational report prepared by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) in close coordination with State and Commonwealth Heads of Treasury. The success of the National Cabinet through the pandemic suggests this can be done. Regardless of the format, the next Intergenerational Report should guide a more ambitious reform agenda, laying out the demographic challenges facing the nation and the long-term sustainability of current Government policies and finances, in the context of the financial risks associated with climate change.

Tax reform has an important role to play in shaping economic and social development and we welcome the New South Wales Government’s plan to phase out stamp duty and replace it with a land tax – a long argued improvement in tax efficiency. More comprehensive reform, however, is best framed against the backdrop of the Intergenerational Report and in the context of future aspirations, opportunities and challenges.

On the climate front, the Federal Government looks to be making moves towards committing Australia to net-zero emissions by 2050. Fully embracing that commitment as soon as possible, and announcing more ambitious policies in pursuit of that outcome, would help to build confidence and provide greater certainty to business and the broader community.

Another issue that has dominated of late is the regulation of digital technologies and platforms. There is no doubt that this is becoming increasingly critical and I am looking forward to hearing more on this and other topics as Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chair Rod Sims outlines priorities for the year ahead in his annual ACCC enforcement and compliance policy update for 2021 in two weeks. We addressed the issue of tech regulation in our Public Interest Technology forum late last year. You can watch that lively session, The role of regulation and regulators in building and maintaining trust in emerging technology, featuring Edelman Australia Group Managing Director Susan Makatoa, Productivity Commissioner Dr Stephen King and Gilbert + Tobin Partner and Chief Operating Officer Sam Nickless here.

Finally, while we’re talking digital technology, late last week we launched our redesigned website to help you better access CEDA’s content. I hope you enjoy the new site. It is the first in a slate of improvements we are making to help make member engagement with our forums, work and ideas easier and more meaningful.


Join CEDA’s two-day 2021 Economic and Political Outlook (EPO) digital forum on Tuesday February 16 and Wednesday February 17 to hear expert analysis of the critical domestic and international issues facing the nation this year. To help unpack these challenges, we have a fantastic line-up of experts including keynote speaker, Australia's Ambassador to the United States, The Hon. Arthur Sinodinos, in conversation with ABC International Affairs Analyst Stan Grant. Other 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.

As mentioned above, 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. This will be a hybrid 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 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.

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. City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp and City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore will outline their plans to reactivate their economies while ensuring the safety and liveability of their communities. Register to attend here.


In the latest episode of our podcast series The Greater Good, I was joined by President of the Australian and NSW local government associations and City of Sydney Councillor Linda Scott. We spoke about the impacts of the changing climate and the role local councils can play in mitigating the effects of extreme weather events and building disaster resilience. Listen here.


On the blog today, Reconciliation Australia Chief Executive Karen Mundine discusses the findings of the 2021 State of Reconciliation in Australia report. She writes that reconciliation must involve truth-telling and actively address issues of inequality and systemic racism, and urges business and government to take stronger and more meaningful steps towards reconciliation. A timely contribution in light of events last week in particular. You can read that article here.


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

Renewing corporate members

Colin Biggers & Paisley

Hall + Prior Aged Care Group

NSW Environment Protection Authority

NSW Treasury

WA Department of Communities

Renewing business members

Aged and Community Services Australia

Ambulance Victoria


St Peters Collegiate Girls School

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.;