CEDA CEO update: 28 September 2020

Government swaps back in black for the long and winding road on Budget playlist, writes CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento. Read more in the latest CEO update.

Next week’s Federal Budget will be like no other in living memory, with the shadow of the COVID-19 recession hanging over every spending decision.

Last week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the Government would no longer pursue a surplus or push to stabilise debt until the unemployment rate falls “comfortably” below six per cent, saying it would now be “damaging to the economy and unrealistic”.

For a decade or more, the Coalition’s fiscal narrative has centred on the return to surplus, or getting back in the black. But we need a new narrative for these very disrupted times, and it is good to see the Treasurer resetting expectations around the Budget. Targeting an unemployment rate below six per cent is a worthwhile starting point.

But the COVID-19 crisis has also highlighted the intergenerational and demographic challenges Australia was already facing. The Government must now also address these challenges as it makes longer term spending plans. The priority must be reigniting economic dynamism and sustainable growth. A credible long-term growth agenda will help build confidence, which in turn will increase the efficacy of other policy measures such as tax cuts. It also lays the foundations for future budget sustainability. In this vein, it is great to hear the Prime Minister’s message that the budget will “give people hope”. I am looking forward to seeing further detail in the Budget around plans and aspirations for advanced manufacturing, research and development and our digital economy.

In breaking news, we have just confirmed that the Treasurer will present a CEDA post-Budget livestream event on Monday 12 October. You can register for that here.

Ensuring Australia has the right migration settings is also crucial to fostering sustainable growth and economic dynamism. I have written an opinion piece on the role migration and skills must play in the COVID-19 recovery, published in The Age newspaper today. Immigration has long been an important foundation for our economic development and prosperity, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic slowing of overseas arrivals. The Federal Government has flagged that the Budget will feature a “reset” of the migration program. Now is the time to take stock of the current system and recalibrate for the future, to help Australia come back better, in particular in states such as Western Australia, which look to be rebounding strongly. Data released last week by the National Skills Commissioner showed that in WA, job advertisements were up more than 10 per cent in August on the same time last year. It is perhaps not surprising that immigration is a topic being raised by our members there.

While we’re on the topic of recalibrating for the future, on Thursday this week the IMD World Competitiveness Center (WCC) will release its rankings of how nations employ digital technologies, as part of its 2020 IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking and Yearbook. The analysis breaks digital competitiveness into three major pillars: knowledge, technology and future readiness. It will be interesting to see where Australia lands in this ranking. CEDA is the Australian partner for these publications. 

This week, Tasmanian Premier the Hon. Peter Gutwein will deliver the annual State of the State address for his state on Wednesday 30 September. Mr Gutwein will discuss Tasmania’s COVID-19 response and rebuilding a stronger economy, as we head into the final quarter of a year like no other. The event will be facilitated by Westpac's Global Head of Public Sector, Jason Kambovski. Register here.

Next week, after the Budget, we will hear from Federal Department of Health Secretary, and former Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brendan Murphy, in the livestream event Australia’s health system – integration and sustainability, on Thursday 8 October. Australia’s world-class health sector has so far met the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet the burden on governments to fund health services continues to grow, driven by an ageing population, expensive medical interventions and community expectations. This event examines new thinking to improve health outcomes and sustainability. Other speakers include: Telstra Health Managing Director Professor Mary Foley AM; Bupa Director of Clinical Governance Dr Zoe Wainer; and PwC Australia National Health Leader Sarah Butler. Register here.

As mentioned above, in an op-ed published by The Age today, I argue that smart, evidence-based migration policy can support Australia's post-COVID economic recovery. You can read that piece here.

Leadership team profiles

Following last week’s profile of our Chief Operations Officer, Sharon Smyth, this week you can read a profile of our Director, Communications, Roxanne Punton.

Thank you to our renewing state and national members this week.

Renewing national members

Renewing state members
Arnold Bloch Leibler (VIC)
City of Perth (WA)
Folk (NSW)
Sellanes Clark and Associates (NSW)
As always, stay safe.

Melinda Cilento


About CEDA

CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development of Australia – is an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation.

We identify policy issues that matter for Australia’s future. We work to drive policies that deliver better economic, social and environmental outcomes for Australia. We deliver on our purpose by: Leveraging insights from our members to identify and understand the most important issues Australia faces. Facilitating collaboration and idea sharing to invoke imaginative, innovative and progressive policy solutions. Providing a platform to stimulate thinking, raise new ideas and debate critical and challenging issues. Influencing decision makers in government, business and the community by delivering objective information and expert analysis and advocating in support of our positions. CEDA's membership spans every state and territory and includes Australia's leading businesses, community organisations, government departments and academic institutions. The organisation was founded in 1960 by leading economist Sir Douglas Copland, and his legacy of applying economic analysis to practical problems to aid the development of Australia continues as we celebrate 60 years of influence, reform and impact across the nation.;