2008 Big Issues results

The top six Big Issues for Australian business as ranked by CEDA trustees.

CEDA's Big Issue project identifys the major challenges that Australia faces over the next five to ten years.

The project has been developed by CEDA board member and IBISWorld Chairman Phil Ruthven who has provided the resources of IBISWorld's Business Environment Database.

The project has several stages:

  • Identification of the Top 50 issues from IBISWorld's Business Environment Database.
  • Ranking of the Top 50 by CEDA trustees. The ranking was derived from individual assessments of the Top 50 made by CEDA trustees voting online in mid-May. Each participant scored each issue on a scale from 1 to 10.
  • Roundtable discussion featuring prominent Australians to identify the course of action to be taken on the top six issues.
  • Publication of the results.

2008 Big Issues were

According to CEDA trustees, the Top six Big Issues of concern for the growth of our nation are:

  • Water
  • Energy
  • Education and training
  • Labour skills
  • Environment
  • Governance

Significant changes emerged since last year's survey, with education and training moving to third.

This year has also seen more of an emphasis on domestic subjects, with transport, productivity, emerging industries, health and governance rounding out the Top 10 issues.


Water is crucial to Australia's economic prosperity. In the Big Issues survey it ranked first for the second year running. Drought conditions remain despite improved rainfall in the Queensland coastal regions and in NSW. All States have now signed up to the Commonwealth proposals relating to the Murray Darling Basin - but little action has taken place.


Energy was the second most important business issue in the 2008 Big Issues survey (and number 7 in 2007). Determining which energy sources and what mix of these sources, the Australian government and business should concentrate investment on is vital. Key current sources include: coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, wind, solar, thermal and tidal.

Education and training

The profile of the education sector over the coming years will be shaped by economic (national and international), technological and social forces. Of key importance will be the structure of public and private investment and the mix of industry shares towards GDP.

Labour skills

There is concern about labour skill shortages, which is the natural downside of full employment. Shortages reflect the education and continuous training priorities of the government and business, the flexibility of the workforce to move between industries, the overall labour force participation rate and retirement trends. As such, a labour skills shortage is the result of long-term imbalances between education and training and the identification of growth industries and growth regions (demography).


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded it is very likely (> 90 per cent) that the earth's climate is being warmed by a rise in greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity (mostly, the burning of fossil fuels). However, climate change involves great uncertainty - we don't know just how much warming a given amount of greenhouse gases is going to cause, or when. The cost of that warming, the extent of actions needed to combat it and the cost of those actions are all uncertain too. We have estimates, but they are inexact and change over time.


Governance can be viewed in three main ways.

  • Legal requirements: the legal requirements and duties of a Director as he/she undertakes their duties under corporation's law.
  • The ethical requirements: How should a director behave and act in relation to the exercise of their duties over and above the strict letter of the law?
  • The Triple Bottom Line matrix: addressing the economic, environmental and social responsibilities of a corporation

Scoring the Issues

  1. Water: including pricing and use; storage; rainfall and other sources. Average score out of 10 of 9.15.
  2. Energy: including quantity; type and cleanness of energy mix; peak power usage capability; competition and pricing. Average score out of 10 of 8.96.
  3. Education and training: including educational attainment (levels reached); critical subjects (maths, language, science); the role of government. Average score out of 10 of 8.89.
  4. Labour skills: including skills shortages; workforce flexibility; on-the-job training. Average score out of 10 of 8.85.
  5. Environment: including environmentalism; global warming; water resources; carbon trading; ocean resources and depletion; forests and deforestation. Average score out of 10 of 8.63.
  6. Transport: including state of road; rail; air and water infrastructure; type of ownership; competition; productivity and safety. Average score out of 10 of 8.57.