Welcome everyone to today’s Economic and Policy Outlook. I am Melinda Cilento, the Chief Executive of CEDA and it’s my great pleasure to welcome you here today.
Can I start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet here in Sydney, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. I acknowledge and thank them for their custodianship of land and culture and for sharing that with us in the spirit of reconciliation.
Can I welcome and also thank today’s sponsors – Arup, Landcom and Siemens – who have been key supporters of today’s event, but also more broadly who are great supporters of CEDA and its work, and who consistently work with us in partnership to deliver not only great events but also research with insights informed by our members to help us to shape policy in Australia.
The Economic and Policy Outlook has long provided an opportunity to spark discussion and insight on the critical issues that CEDA believes are going to shape the next 12 months for our members and for Australia more broadly.
It is hard to imagine a time when understanding the economic and policy landscape and what it means for your organisation was more important than right now.
As we still deal with the lingering disruptions of the pandemic and navigate a new global and geopolitical landscape, an economy characterised by rising interest rates and significant economic uncertainty – being engaged to understand this landscape, including its risks and opportunities, is critical to navigating it.
This year has been almost unprecedented in the sharp focus on policy – with the future economic direction of the nation at the forefront of public debate beginning with Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ recent essay on “values-based” capitalism, but also the intensity of public response to that essay and in scrutiny of the Reserve Bank and its Governor Philip Lowe.
The essay is just one indication of the momentum which is now behind the policy reform agenda and the new approaches that are now being considered and contemplated.
This year alone we will see the reports of reviews into the Reserve Bank itself, the Skilled Migration system, the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce and the Productivity Commission's latest 5-year productivity review – plus a review of the organisation itself. We will also see the government’s Employment Whitepaper, its second budget in six months, a wellbeing budget and an Intergenerational Report, and actually, that’s not all of it.
The EPO report that we’ve released canvasses the key challenges that we think will be facing us this year.
The papers prepared in our report and today’s discussions are designed to contribute to your understanding of those challenges and what changes and responses might better position Australia, its individuals, businesses, sectors and the wider community to manage, challenge and to enable opportunity. The issues that we’ve presented are by no means exhaustive but they are important ones, and I think important also because the insights that are contained in understanding those issues have a lot of relevance and implications for issues that we’re going to have to consider over the course of the year.
A key theme that you can expect to see CEDA address repeatedly this year is one of evaluation and accountability – we can’t hope to improve our performance and to get better bang for buck and effort from policy and government spending without clearly identifying the outcomes that we want from policy, the priorities that we have and without a genuine appetite for critical assessment of performance against them. Nowhere is this more important than in our approaches to entrenched disadvantage which have yielded too little for too long and which fail to incorporate known measures to improve people’s lives and circumstances.
When I read through today’s EPO report in full and when I reflected on the Treasurer’s recent essay, I thought there was an important theme that ran through the work that CEDA has presented and one which I think is worth all of you reflecting on.
I think the simple fact is we’re going to have to get much better at designing markets to sustainably meet the long-run needs of consumers, clients and customers. When we don’t, we end up with policy responses that are suboptimal and create the wrong incentives for the long run. When we do design markets well, the actions of business, consumers and government align to produce good, long-term outcomes and results.
But no matter how well we design markets there will be things for which markets do not readily exist and markets which do not deliver for everyone. In these instances, effective safety nets and decisive government action are called for.
Each of you has a role to play in the policy responses that will shape a prosperous future for Australia. It’s great that you are here today to consider the issues that we’re presenting, I think it’s going to be a fantastic conversation and I look forward to working with you through CEDA and our team so that we can play our part in building the next generation of prosperity for all Australians.