Opinion article

Politicians are rapidly losing social licence to operate

The community expects high standards of behaviour and a focus on issues that matter to their everyday lives. It’s time for politicians to refocus and to step-up their game, says CEDA CEO, Melinda Cilento.

There has been considerable debate about what to make of the ongoing saga in Federal politics and the results of the Victorian election. For me, the community response in both cases show that the Australian community are more positive and long term focused than many of our politicians.

Regardless of your political persuasion, the Victorian election shows that the community wants campaigns and policy commitments that are positive, constructive and focused on long term planning for the whole community. 

The Australian community is seeing through the veil of attack politics and a narrow dialogue on a negative set of issues no longer seems to be cutting through. This is very encouraging. 

CEDA’s November research, Connecting people to progress, showed that Australia has been more resilient and better at managing the social compact than other countries. We need to maintain that. Australia has a great opportunity for governments to step-up and deliver the next wave of reform that will not only enable economic growth but connect the benefits and opportunities created by that growth to the community at large.  

To do so reform must focus on what matters most to people’s everyday lives.

CEDA conducted a nation-wide poll earlier this year on who had benefited most from Australia’s record 27 years of economic growth and what issues matter most to Australians.

The poll was conducted across every state and territory and of the almost 3000 people polled, the majority felt they had not gained from economic growth or didn’t know if they had gained. Interestingly the results were consistent across rural, regional and metropolitan areas.

Most felt that it was large corporations and senior executives that had benefited.

The majority also felt that the gap between the richest and poorest in Australia was unacceptable.

Economic development and reform are important for improving Australians’ quality of life, but if the community feel removed from the benefits or have lost trust that the benefits from growth will be broadly shared, gaining support for economic reform becomes more difficult.

The top five most important issues to people identified in CEDA’s survey were reliable, low cost basic health services; reliable, low cost essential services; access to stable and affordable housing; affordable, high quality chronic disease services; and reduced violence in homes and communities.

The most important issues nationally were high quality and accessible public hospitals; strong regulation to limit foreign ownership of Australian land/assets; increased pension payments; high quality and choice of aged care services; and high quality and accessible public schools.

It’s not rocket science, yet not enough of the political debate has been focused on these key areas.

For politicians at all tiers of government across Australia, there is a key take out.

The community expects high standards of behaviour and a focus on issues that matter to their everyday lives.

It’s time for a refocus and to step-up your game.

Report downloads:

Connecting people with progress: securing future economic development full report 
Connecting people with progress: securing future economic development summary report
Connecting people with progress: securing future economic development  infographic brochure 
About the authors

Melinda Cilento

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Melinda Cilento is Chief Executive of CEDA, a company director, economist and experienced senior executive. She is a non-executive director of Australian Unity and Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia. Melinda is also a member of the Parliamentary Budget Office panel of expert advisors.

Melinda was previously a Non-Executive Director with Woodside Petroleum, Commissioner with the Productivity Commission and Deputy CEO and Chief Economist with the Business Council of Australia. Melinda has also previously held senior roles with the Federal Department of Treasury, Invesco and the International Monetary Fund.

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