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Opinion article

Tim Besley: 40 years of State of the Nation

For the 40th anniversary of State of the Nation, former Chairman of CEDA's Executive Committee and Honorary Life Trustee, M A (Tim) Besley AC, reflects on his experience with CEDA.

I became aware of CEDA in the early 1960s when, as a young engineer on the Snowy Mountains Scheme, I worked closely with the Commissioner Sir William Hudson who was a friend and a great admirer of Sir Douglas Copland. I remember writing a CEDA speech for Sir William.
My interest in CEDA continued and many years later in the mid 1980s I took on the role of Chairman of CEDA’s Executive Committee. I was a member of the Board of Governors between 2004 and 2012 and was a Patron from 2013 to 2017. I was honoured to be made Honorary Life Trustee in 2018
CEDA has not only been a broker of ideas it has also continued to produce well-argued and objective reports on important topics. In recent years, events on key areas, such as energy, transport and digital security, have been informative and have identified what still needs to be done e.g. develop a national energy policy. CEDA has continued in this format, and now deals with contemporary issues such as governance of social media and the social and economic impact of changing demographics. Recent events have also addressed artificial intelligence and new and emerging technology, topics that I hope CEDA will continue to consider.
Looking to the future, CEDA should continue to engage with emerging leaders in the younger generation who offer unique perspectives and input, particularly in fields focused on technological development and digitisation. From my somewhat limited experience, they think differently from the preceding generations, are much more tech-savvy and have strong views on social issues. The mechanism to do this sensibly requires careful thought.
Over the 40 years of the existence of the State of the Nation series I have been a quite regular attender at this event. It is undoubtedly a CEDA showpiece. The presentations and ensuing discussions are always of high quality, are thought provoking and topical. With this year’s line up of excellent speakers I am looking forward to high-level commentary on, and discussion of, what the policy settings need to be for the nation to continue to prosper as we advance in this digital age.
About the authors

Tim Besley

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M A (Tim) Besley AC is an Australian businessman, engineer and former public servant. He was Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank between 1988 and 1999. In 2000, he chaired an independent inquiry into telecommunications services. In 2001, he was awarded a Centenary Medal for service to Australian society in civil engineering and corporate governance.

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