CEO update: 12 October 2020

Focus must shift to driving longer-term growth after crisis Budget, writes CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento in the update this week.

With the historic 2020 Federal Budget now delivered, I was joined today by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg for a conversation about his vision for returning the economy to a path of sustainable growth as we emerge from the COVID-19 recession.

Having handed down the most important Federal Budget in generations, the Treasurer told me his top priority is providing stimulus to the economy, given the time it has taken for the unemployment rate to fall after past recessions. This is especially the case for young people, which explains why the JobMaker hiring credit was such a centrepiece of the budget. You can read more about this in a blog post by CEDA board member and University of Melbourne Truby Williams Professor of Economics Jeff Borland, who says JobMaker is a well-designed wage subsidy aimed at some of the people currently most in need.
The Treasurer disagreed with criticisms that the Budget did not provide enough support for women, highlighting that the Government has spent a considerable amount supporting childcare through the pandemic. He also noted that women make up a higher proportion of people who have been (re)employed as the labour market has improved, saying they accounted for 54 per cent of job losses in the early stages of the pandemic, but 60 per cent of the job gains since the hiring turnaround. The Treasurer also highlighted that female labour force participation has reached its highest level on record during the Coalition Government. Past experience shows, however, that women tend to leave the labour force more than men in a weak labour market, and we have seen the female participation rate drop in recent months. In the face of a sharp fall in immigration and population growth, sustaining high levels of participation for women and men, young and old, will be critical through the economic recovery. 

The Treasurer agreed with CEDA’s call for structural reforms to come in future budgets, and noted that Stage Three of the Government’s income tax cuts would form part of the Government’s reform agenda, as well as deregulation and changes to workplace relations rules. 

Later this week, we will continue this important conversation with Labor’s Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers. Jim will join us to discuss Labor’s response to the Budget, including its focus on childcare funding and investments in energy transmission. You can register for the livestream event Budget response by Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers here.

With the next Budget now just seven months away, I would like to hear more from both sides on strategies for mental health and aged care, which are both critical to future prosperity, and a permanent increase to JobSeeker unemployment benefits, which CEDA has long advocated for. Equally critical are clear messages from both sides about how they will drive a sustainable, long-term growth agenda for the nation, including building on the momentum of the recent rapid digitisation of the economy. CEDA has recently started to provide briefings on the economic outlook, long-term growth trends and policy implications to members. To enquire about the types of briefings and analysis the CEDA Research and Policy team can provide, email us at:

CEDA is also keen to hear more from younger Australians – particularly those working in our member organisations – about their hopes and expectations for economic policy. Do you have ideas about how CEDA can better engage with younger Australians? Please get in touch at
On that front, CEDA Chief Economist Jarrod Ball was joined by Cindy Chen, a year 12 student from Wesley College studying economics, and Sonia Arakkal, Co-founder of Think Forward, for a discussion of how young Australians view the Budget. Take a listen here.

Later this week, I am looking forward to participating in the Chief Executive Women roundtable, where measures to boost support for childcare and increase women’s participation in the labour market will be front and centre.
Tomorrow, join us for our livestream Strengthening national resilience - data, science and tech. This event will examine the role of data, science and technology in innovation and digital transformation and how sound data analysis can support industries to accelerate or transition post-COVID-19. Speakers include: CSIRO chief executive, Dr Larry Marshall; NBN Co chief executive, Stephen Rue; and AustCyber chief executive, Michelle Price. Register here.

As mentioned above, we will also hear the Opposition’s response to the budget in the livestream event Budget response by Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers on Thursday 15 October. Register here.

And on Friday 16 October, CEDA is delighted to welcome the Hon. Julie Bishop to deliver the 2020 Copland Lecture in our 60th anniversary year. The former Foreign Minister, now Chancellor of Australian National University, will discuss strategic and ethical leadership in a time of change and disruption, providing insights from her engagement with leaders around the world and through times of disruption. This is the leadership discussion we need in 2020. For those unable to attend the face-to-face event in Perth, this discussion will also be available via livestream. Register here.

In the latest episode of our podcast series The Greater Good, CEDA Chief Economist Jarrod Ball is joined by Cindy Chen, a year 12 student from Wesley College studying economics, and Sonia Arakkal, Co-founder of Think Forward, for a discussion of how young Australians view the 2020 Federal Budget. This episode covers the Budget's approach to climate change, tax cuts and long-term tax reform. Listen here.

In the latest episode of The Economists’ Corner, I joined Deloitte Access Economics Partner, Nicki Hutley; HSBC Australia Chief Economist, Paul Bloxham; and EY Oceania Chief Economist, Jo Masters for the second in our series of conversations on the Federal Budget. We discussed immigration, business uncertainty, missed opportunities and predictions for how the Budget will play out over the next seven months. Listen here.

Today on the blog, University of Melbourne Truby Williams Professor of Economics and CEDA board member Jeff Borland says the JobMaker wage subsidy announced in the Federal Budget is a well-designed program aimed at some of the people who will be hardest hit in this recession. Read more here.
A special call out to our new state member Portable – it is great to welcome you to the CEDA community. And thank you to this week’s renewing national and state members.

New state member
Portable (VIC)

Renewing national members
Indigenous Business Australia
McConnell Dowell

Renewing state members
Bank of Queensland (NSW)
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (QLD)
Multicap (QLD)
Queensland Competition Authority (QLD)
Townsville City Council (QLD)
WA Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (WA)
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.;