Government | Regulation

Vision appears a thing of the past in politics

Opinion piece by CEDA, Chief Executive, Professor the Hon Stephen Martin.

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Long term vision for improving Australia is difficult for any political party due to the electoral cycles but now more than ever it seems to have evaporated and it is exactly what is missing from the current political debate.

We are at a critical juncture in Australia's future and the major parties need to stand up and tell Australians where they want to see Australia in 10 or 20 years' time not after the next budget or three.

CEDA will today release its annual Economic and Political Overview. This year in addition to examining the likely economic and political outcomes for 2013, the publication also looks at forecasts for electricity prices to 2020 and the future of work.

These two additional subjects were chosen because they are great examples of issues that have real impacts for each of us as individuals, our living standards and our economy both now and for future generations.

They are exactly the type of issues that should be on the table for discussion this year as we head toward the Federal election.

The future of work is a topic that has not received the attention it deserves.

Fundamentally what most working Australians want is job security and knowing they will have work options in the future. So where is the public debate and discussion on how this is going to happen?

As highlighted by Dr Ziggy Switkowski in CEDA's EPO, there are likely to be rapid changes to the structure of our workplaces and the type of work we do in coming decades because the technology leaps we've made in the last two decades are likely to be matched in the next two if not exceeded.

And let's not forget how rapid the changes have been. It is hard to imagine work without email, the internet or even mobile phones but it is only 20 years ago that was the case.

The technological changes coming are also likely to allow even great changes to the structure of work.

While the structure of work - largely centralised locations and nine to five - may have worked for more than 150 years, the rapid changes in technology predicted provide the perfect time to take a greenfield approach to how we structure work for generations of Australians to come - it is also an opportunity to be world leaders in embracing the opportunities that will come.

In terms of electricity prices, they have a major impact on industry, business and households. This report identifies that real reductions were achieved between 1985 and 2008 because of substantial supply-side reforms to the electricity industry.

However, the rise of electricity prices between 2008 and 2012 has coincided with a period where reform has stalled.

Deregulation of electricity prices such as in Victoria and South Australia and new technology such as interval metering will be key to driving competition and innovation which in turn has the potential to drive real reductions in prices.

It's time for the major political parties, in particular in an election year to fundamentally tell Australian people what they stand for and what they will deliver for individuals.

A sound and strong economy should be a given but it's about how our workplaces will operate, what technology should be Australia's focus and what reforms government will deliver to the people of Australia.

Where will our jobs be? The national employment figures look OK in pure economic terms but in Victoria and New South Wales we know there has been significant job losses. What will deliver new jobs in these states now and for future generations? What will be the structure of our workplaces? How will we power industry, our homes or workplaces?

The importance of having a long term vision was recognised in the Hawke/Keating era, and that's what delivered the economic reforms of the 80s and 90s that have allowed Australia to weather the Global Financial Crisis 20 years later.

As a former politician I understand the focus on the electoral cycle, after all your continuing employment relies on it. But it's not enough, and the Australian public should demand more.

We don't need more headline statements we need the details of how and what each party envisions and can deliver for the long term good of Australia.

Opinion piece by CEDA Chief Executive, Professor the Hon Stephen Martin.