What South Australia can do to drive productivity, the potential for a change of Opposition Leader in SA and the damage "gottcha journalism" is doing to democracy, were the key topics discussed at CEDA's SA Economic and Political Overview, held on February 24, in Adelaide.
Looking at SA politics, Flinders University, Politics and Public Policy Department Head, Associate Professor Haydon Manning said while it had been easy for Isobel Redmond to differentiate her leadership style to former premier Mike Rann, she would find it much tougher against new Premier Jay Weatherill and desperately needed to lead with some strong policies.
He predicted that there might be a change of Opposition Leader in South Australia in the next few months if the polls didn't improve for the Liberal Party.
Association Professor Manning also raised concerns about the state of political journalism not giving politicians a fair go and in particular the impact of "gottcha journalism".
"This is the term that describes a particular method of interviewing that is premeditated to embarrass a politician rather than solicit information," he said.
"It is designed foremost to entrap a minister or backbencher into making a damaging statement or statement that may be construed as not consistent with the party leader or a particular policy and the process is...aided and abetted by selective editing of sound bites."
He said this "self righteous and pious" attitude of some journalists was harming democracy and "we are unlikely to find talented people to run for government given the current disdain for politicians."
Examining the Federal political landscape, Hawker Britton, Director, Stephen Halliday said the Federal leadership issues were "far more brutal than past leadership tilts" and history showed that a single defeat doesn't knock out a challenger, but generally a vote in the high 30s by the challenger was needed to sustain a second challenge.
He said the focus on leadership issues was interesting given the significant success the government was having getting legislation through parliament and that we have one of the strongest economies in the world.
NAB Economist, and contributing author to CEDA's EPO publication, Alexandra Knight, provided an overview of the current economic situation, saying the Reserve bank of Australia should be able to maintain low rates.
She highlighted that recent NAB surveys showed business confidence in South Australia was the worst in the nation, although business confidence was higher than in Victoria.
On the year ahead, she said: "Policymakers will have to remain focused on weaker sectors and managing the disparity that is occurring as the resources boom continues."
University of Adelaide, Executive Dean of the Faculty of the Professions, Professor Christopher Findlay examined the issue of productivity, and what SA could do to help drive productivity.
He said the four part plan suggested under Project Victoria, run in the 1990s, provided a good framework.
On questioning from the audience about what impact the economic restructure occurring in Australia was having in SA, Professor Findlay said he suspected that while business sectors were not changing in SA, it may be that individual businesses were realigning how and where they did business.
The keynote address was provided by Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator the Hon. Penny Wong, who spoke on the focus of the Gillard Government in assisting business to leverage from the Asian century we have now entered.
"There are approximately 500 million people in the Asia-Pacific, excluding North America, who would currently be categorised as 'middle-class'," she said, and this is "forecast to rise to around 1.7 billion by 2020 and 3.2 billion by 2030".
That's 3.2 billion people who will require services, resources including minerals and energy, and food, representing a significant opportunity for Australia, she said.
She said the hard reforms the government had now passed, such as the Minerals Resource Tax legislation which has now passed the House the Representatives, would help spread the benefits of the Asian century and the mining boom.
"This reform will see the benefits of the boom spread to all Australians," she said.
"It will reduce the company tax rate across the board, and significantly reduce the tax burden for small business.
"It will also improve the superannuation holdings of working Australians and see significant investment in infrastructure necessary to support the expansion of the mining sector."
To read a transcript of Senator Wong's speech click here.
Extract of Saul Eslake's contribution to CEDA's 2012 EPO publication as published in the Financial Review, 17 February 2012.