CEDA's trustees embraced a unique opportunity to shape the national agenda in May 2007, when 300 trustees took part in CEDA's Big Issues project.
The Big Issues project was created to help identify the challenges that will be faced by Australia over the next ten years. Trustees shaped the project's make-up and results, creating a ranking that attracted the national media spotlight in the 12 July 2007 edition of BRW magazine. In 14 pages of reporting, BRW set out the full results of CEDA's Big Issues project.
As well as focusing the national debate, the Big Issues project is playing a key role in developing CEDA's research agenda for the period ahead. The scope of the issues includes economic development and business issues, but also social and environmental issues - the full range of CEDA's interests.
The project was been developed with the assistance of CEDA's Research and Policy Committee chairman, Phil Ruthven, who provided the top 100 issues from IBISWorld's Business Environment Database. Those issues were then ranked by 291 CEDA trustees and nine senior CEDA staff, with each participant scoring each issue on a scale from 1 to 10. (Issues were presented in the 12 separate business environments that form the basis of the Business Environment Database.) That ranking in turn was considered by a Big Issues expert panel in a panel discussion on 1 June, facilitated by Geoff Allen of the Allen Consulting Group, to arrive at a final Top 10 Big Issues.
The CEDA trustee issues ranking was notable in several ways:
A set of economic issues that dominated the 1980s and 1990s ranked much lower down. Taxation ranked 37th, below fitness and diet. Inflation was 39, government spending 43, national savings 44, wages 49, the current account 54, unemployment 61.
Security issues also ranked lower than might have been expected. World security ranked 67th and war/terrorism appeared at position 73.
The Top 10 (with their business environment in brackets) were:
The 1 July Big Issues panel discussion provided rankings that were somewhat different from those of CEDA trustees. The top issue - Australia's water supply - was unchanged. So was the number three issue, global population, which included population growth, ageing and immigration. However, the issue of domestic labour skills displaced the world economy from the number two spot.
Panellists supported adding two additional issues to the list: the state of Indigenous Australians and regional political instability. In voting by the panellists, the state of Indigenous Australians ranked in the Top 30 issues.
The Top 10 Big Issues as voted by the expert panel were: