Speech: Choosing Opportunity

Speech delivered in Newcastle, Australia. October 12, 2016.

In September 2016, Australia’s Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten launched a McKell Institute policy document, Choosing Opportunity, authored by myself and Professor Richard Holden of Harvard University & UNSW. I addressed an audience about the report, and how the ideas within it can help overcome the relentless march of contemporary Western populism, in October, 2016.

The full report is available here:


Introduction

We’re entering a new, unique and challenging period in the political and economic history of this country.

We are moving into a period where society is becoming increasingly concerned, fearful and fractured; where the demand for what government can provide has never been higher.

It is a paradigm in which Australia is not experiencing alone. All of us here have seen the political tumult fermenting around the world.

There is, today, a remarkable confluence of factors impacting the way in which people around the world are feeling worse off, ignored, and scared.

Economies feel fragile, borders feel insecure, politics feels like its failing.

Middle and lower income workers throughout the Western world have faced a generation of stagnant wage growth, rising inequality, and the sense that the necessary change that is occurring throughout the world economy is leaving them and their families behind.

The manifestation of this prevailing fear is the opportunistic rise of figures like Donald Trump, Pauline Hanson, Geert Van Wilders in the Netherlands, Nigel Farage in the UK — figures united in their unique inability to address today’s real problems.

As observers, however, we must be cautious in blaming the public for electing reprehensible figures to office. Certainly, we as citizens’ bare responsibility for who we elect. But too often I hear commentators deriding the individual citizens who elect these populists to office.

On occasions, individuals who do so might be inspired by racist, nativist principals that have no place in our inclusive society.

But more often, these voters — who don’t spend their days reading political commentary or watching Sky News — are just voicing their frustration.

They feel abandoned, forgotten, angry, and worried. And the ballot box is the only place in which they can express themselves.

So we can’t blame the voters.

In reality, the blame lies on those in positions of leadership in not only this country, but around the world, who have failed to offer a style of leadership that brings along the public, as an idolised version of our history fades in the rear view mirror, and the world marches inevitably onwards.

We’ve seen a pathology amongst many leaders — particularly in the United States and the UK, but also in Australia— that simply ignores the plight of poorest working people, and actually harbours an ideological belief that inequality is a vital component of economic growth.

This ideological view of the world and economics is not just lazy, and not just wrong, but it is also stifling. It prohibits the type of creative, ambitious, imaginative policy making that is required to overcome the blight that is economic and social inequality: an affliction that is ripping apart the fabric of Western society.

By accepting that inequality is a necessary byproduct of economic growth, hardliners are condemning Western societies to entrenched divisions that will only lead to an even more dangerous level of disenchantment.

But what growing inequality and poor political leadership has led to is an public longing for a path forward, ready to grasp onto any digestible solutions they are offered — no matter how unachievable these false solutions might be.

Irresponsible figures in both Australia and abroad, aware of the electoral benefits of the politics of division, are diving into the gutter, engaging in a brand of politics that in reality offers nothing but false hope, and guarantees further hardship in the future.

They can offer a false diagnosis of the determinants of the economic and social hardships so many Australians face, and offer a false and historically unfounded remedy.

And all these figures contribute to our political discourse is a fabricated and misleading version of reality.

It is an indictment on leaders past and present that the conditions allowing populist, fear-mongering candidates are now the norm in our political discourse.

Their solutions are based on an attempt to take Australia back to a bygone era that never existed. Their culprits are those who come to this country to make it better and help grow the economy.

All of us here — if we aren’t immigrants ourselves — work or have worked with hardworking immigrants, who are, if anything, an inspiration and not an imposition.

But immigrants are just one of many false bogey men that is thrown to a disenchanted public looking for something or someone to blame. These fabricated enemies are many, and they are promulgated from populist voices on both sides of the political spectrum.

All the ills facing societies across the world seem to be diluted into a few buzzwords to which all the blame can be allocated: Globalisation, free trade, foreigners, big government, the establishment.

These enemies of progress, however, are exaggerated.

Solutions to today’s problems can’t be found through isolating ourselves. As president Obama so eloquently put it recently, ‘a country surrounded by walls only imprisons itself.’

By misallocating blame to things like trade and foreigners, populists only offer the entrenchment of the very ills they proclaim to be trying to solve.

By rejecting the benefits of global economic engagement, populists are just blocking one means of economic growth that can help alleviate the cost of living pressures faced by many, and are legitimizing an isolationist world view in which racism can foment.

But they are tapping into another fundamental truth in politics and public life. Electorates want to be inspired: they desire a clarity of vision about what a nation could and should be.

They see Australia — the 12th largest economy in the world with a land rich and plentiful — and ask why things aren’t better.

So what then, is to blame for the growing sense of disillusionment Australians, and working and middle class voters are feeling across the Western world?

It is in this context that we decided to write Choosing Opportunity, aimed at offering a suite of aspirational policy reform options that both grow our country and expand the sense of equal opportunity that is at the heart of Australia’s social contract.

In Choosing Opportunity, Richard and I have tried to identify some of the genuine determinants of hardship that Australian workers are facing, and offer actual policy solutions — some new, and some proven to work in the past — that we believe provide a path forward towards greater fairness in this country.

While we examine some historic trends and data, and look at other periods of Australian history in which bold, progressive leadership has transformed this country for the better, in writing this report we were cognizant of a fundamental truth: that the question of ‘to where’, is so much more important than ‘from where’.

We can learn from the past, but we can never emulate it. And this is objective truth must be a guiding light for all creative public policy makers.

Today, Australia and the world are facing an entirely unique set of contemporary challenges: and a unique set of contemporary challenges requires an equally unique and contemporary set of solutions.

A Progressive Responsibility

This is a policy document, however, that is unashamedly progressive. But in claiming that mantle, it aims to expand the understanding of what progressivism really means in this country.

Because those who believe in progress — who believe that the ideals of equal opportunity and a fair go must guide political change — have to adapt these ideals to the realities of our time, and not become entrenched in dogmatic ideological fights like we have seen abroad.

Progress is more than a set of ideas. It requires real momentum and implementation to become reality.

But progressives have too easily been branded in this country and others as fiscally reckless: as nothing more than big spending advocates of big government. Too often, conservatives have owned the narrative, and successfully painted progressives as opponents of individual endeavor who can’t run an economy.

But if anything, the opposite is true:

At the core of the progressive ideal is the notion that every individual is afforded an equitable environment in which they can achieve anything for which they are willing to strive.

Progressives believe in this. They just don’t believe the scales should be tipped in the favour of those already able to help themselves.

Progressive policy making in Australia and the world has to redefine this simple, black and white narrative of what it means to be on the left or right of politics.

And this means adopting policy agendas that are aware of the fiscal challenges of our time, as well as the public’s desire for efficient — but observable — government spending.

It is the responsibility of today’s progressives — and those who will be leading us over the coming generations — to be advocates for efficient and creative governance that meets these contemporary fiscal demands.

Adapting to this requirement will help dilute the false narrative about economic management the conservatives have got away with for so long.

So there is, in reality, an enormous burden placed on genuine, governing progressives in this country.

The Labor Party does, in fact, find itself in the most challenging space in Australian politics.

One recent tweet I saw summed up the dilemma: “being center-left is the most thankless space on the political spectrum — the right thinks you’re a communist, and the far left think you’re a sell out”. And this summary might be a sad truth.

Because on one flank, the conservatives offer a style of government rooted in a simplistic ideology. They believe in the Thatcherite ideal that we live in an economy, not a society.

They have grasped the 18th century Adam Smith ‘invisible hand’ economic view of the world that every first year Uni student learns about, and never moved on from it.

And in essence, they only have two core solutions to an endless set of challenges: lower taxes, and privatization.

While the conservative side of politics has historically been far more pragmatic in Australia than in other countries — particularly the US, certain recent trends should be cause for concern.

Because under recent leaders, the government embraced the very type of fear and division that is not too dissimilar to that seen by the Trumps and Hansons of the world.

The conservatives also have a get out of jail free card when it comes to large and necessary reform. They exploit their reputation as astute fiscal managers to avoid making many of the hard investments that help improve the country.

In effect, they have it easy. Their ideological framework doesn’t enable progress, it prohibits it. This means that many necessary reforms are just left to genuine reformists when they eventually take over the reins of government.

And on the other flank, the far left frequently offer an often unrealistic vision for the future of the country: one that places dogmatic purity above pragmatic, value driven reforms that improve every day lives of working and middle class Australians. While their imagination deserves credit, their methods of implementation often ring hollow.

So the Labor party — and pragmatic progressives more broadly in this country — bare the ultimate responsibility. They are the custodians of change: the stewards of real progress, reform and an equal opportunity.

But it is a position on the political spectrum that is often thankless.

And it is with an awareness of this ultimate burden of progressive policy making in this country that Choosing Opportunity was written.

Choosing Opportunity

Choosing Opportunity explores eight key policy areas that The McKell Institute believes should be front and center in framing a progressive policy agenda that both learns from past achievements, and embraces future challenges and opportunities.

The eight priority areas we have focused on are:

1. Strong wage growth,

2. Greater equity and growth in superannuation,

3. Ensuring our education system is elevated to a world leading status,

4. Improving housing affordability

5. Eliminating transport disadvantage

6. Investing in the new economy

7. Modernising Australia’s healthcare system

8. And reforming Australia’s tax system to both ensure more equitable stream of revenue, and also re-creating public confidence in government, which has so deteriorated in recent years.

Why the Middle Class is Important

First, however, Choosing Opportunity lays the importance of a strong and growing Australian middle class to which all Australian’s can aspire.

Expanding a country’s middle class is essential for not only economic growth, but also for the maintenance of a socially integrated and harmonious population.

Much of the political disengagement seen around the Western world has been a response to the unjust inequity of dramatically escalating economic inequality.

And maintaining a strong, growing middle class that all Australians can hope to be a part of is the only way to overcome the frustration and anger that such economic disenfranchisement fosters.

The good news is; Australia’s middle class remains globally strong. We are fortunate in that the last period of great economic reform in Australia — during the Hawke-Keating years — was not only a period where the foundational elements of our modern economy were laid.

The Hawke-Keating years also saw Australia couple vital economic change with essential social reforms that have stood the test of time — Medicare and superannuation perhaps the most famous and successful.

When we look at the changes happening across the rest of the world during that period — particularly in the UK and the US and Thatcher and Reagan, economic change was always prioritised over social reform.

What the Reagan and Thatcher governments failed to manage, the Hawke-Keating governments succeeded in.

Through close collaboration with the Union movement, the Labor governments of the 1980s and 1990s saw the laying of the foundation of Australia’s future economy, and had the creative vision to, at the same time, lay the foundation of a more equitable society that would benefit from the economic opening they over saw.

It was, in Australia, a seminal period — one in which placed the opportunity of the Australian worker at the heart of necessary economic change.

It resulted in an often touted fact about Australia’s economy. After 1991, it has never entered into recession. Not once. Not even at the height of the Global Financial Crisis.

The UK and the US, however, approached the 1980’s period of economic liberalization without the working class at the forefront of change.

This decision — driven too much by the simplistic ideological worldview too many conservatives to this day maintain — left a generation of working Brits and Americans if not worse off, certainly no better than they were before.

The stats paint a damning picture: in the United States, real wage growth — that is, wage growth that actually reflects in increase in the standard of living, not just matching inflation — has barely lifted since 1979.

In the United Kingdom, real wage growth has barely risen for 15 years.

But in both the United States and the United Kingdom, productivity rose — meaning that workers are producing more for less money — and inequality has dramatically risen.

This failure — the fundamental lack of foresight by policy makers too guided by an ideological world view — has fomented the political disenchantment we have seen in both of those countries, resulting in the Brexit vote and the rise of Donald Trump: two rejections of a status quo that was conceptualized in the 1980s reform period.

So the good news is, Australia did not go down that path.

But to secure a more prosperous and equal future, Australia cannot rest on the laurels of past success, and past foresight. It needs a new imaginative approach that can consider the future consequences of inaction, and proactively seek to avoid them.

Some of the trends that are now entrenched in the economies of the US, UK, and increasingly Europe, are starting to creep into the Australian economy and society.

Wage growth in Australia has all but flat lined since 2012. In fact, in purchasing power parity terms — a global comparative measurement that defines how much you can actually buy with your income — it has gone slightly backwards.

In 2012, in purchasing power terms, an average Australian income was $52,229 a year in US dollars. Now, by that same measurement, Australian average incomes are lower, at $51,148.

Average Incomes in Australia — 2009 to 2014 ($US Purchasing Power Parity)

While in nominal terms, the average income may have slightly risen, this has not actually meant that Australians are experiencing a more comfortable standard of living.

But at the same time — like we have seen in the US and in the UK — the productivity of Australia’s workforce has actually increased.

Australian Labour Productivity: Australians are working longer and more productively, but making less money.

In fact, Australia’s productivity rate is among the best in the world. Don’t listen to the nonsense when you hear about Australia’s productivity being in decline.

While there are two measurements of productivity — one is called labour productivity, the other multifactor productivity — the measurement of productivity that is actually struggling isn’t the one that measures how hard Australians workers are.

That measurement would be multifactor productivity, which accounts for all economic inputs into the production of goods and services — not just labour inputs.

Simply, Australian labour productivity is forecast to be world leading amongst developed countries, rising above the OECD average and that of comparable countries like New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the US.

So what we have for the average Australian worker is an immensely frustrating confluence of factors: we are making more, working harder, but in essence, earning less.

And at the same time, housing prices are soaring, the cost of living pressures are growing ever higher, and there doesn’t seem to be robust solutions by our incumbent government — just a selection of annoying buzzwords about more jobs and more growth that doesn’t actually reflect the on the ground, lived experience of our population.

So now is the time for a recalibration of our economy and society: a new era of public policy implementation that places opportunity and equality at the center of economic adjustments.

Wage Growth

The first priority area we discuss as part of this agenda is the prioritization of wage growth.

Now, this seems like a given. But there are some within Australia who genuinely believe our wages are too high and that the only way to grow our economy is to actually cut the wages of those who make it tick over.

We all know this economics doesn’t work — especially in an economy like Australia’s, which is dominated by domestic consumption of goods and services, and relies on a robust middle class with at least somewhat disposable incomes to contribute to our economy.

This report found that, if all lower income workers in Australia moved up into the statistical middle class, an additional 170.5 billion dollars would be added to the economy. If a more realistic 1/3 of the lower income portion of the Australian work force were to increase their income to a middle class level, this would add 56.4 billion to annual GDP.

56.4 billion dollars. Think about that — that is the sum of the entire economy of Luxembourg. This could be added to Australia’s economy by simply lifting the wages of those working for the lowest incomes.

Arguments that increasing real wages would decimate economic growth ignore the increased consumption such wage growth brings. This is good for jobs — particularly in regional and rural Australia.

And while some of the big business councils claim that the only way to achieve additional employment is through the removal of pillars of our social economy like penalty rates, so many small business people I know have no such qualms.

The fruit shop I worked at in the Central Market — they knew the value of penalty rates and were happy to pay them. And it is simply fantasy to argue that if penalty rates were abolished, small businesses would just add more employees.

It’s a failure of logic — why, if there is no more work to be done, would any business hire additional employees, just because their wages are slightly lower?

So these attacks don’t reflect a realistic way forward in growing our economy.

But to grow wages, the central pillars of our wage framework like penalty rates can’t be stripped away.

In the report, we argue that there are 4 key ways in which we can ensure ongoing wage growth in our country:

1. Maintain a stable employment bargaining system that provides certainty and stability for both businesses and workers — not ideologically driven changes that tip the scales to far in the direction of either businesses or employees.

2. Ensure appropriate compensation for work — while accommodating contemporary labour market demands. This means holding onto penalty rates and over time pay, and only allowing ‘flexible’ workplaces arrangements when it is fairly agreed upon by employer and employee.

3. Take active steps to solve the earnings and participation gender gap.

4. And finally, taking action to improve job security.

Gender Inequity

The Gender Pay Gap in Australia: Worse than the US, the UK, and Mexico.
Now, solving the gender earnings and participation gap so vital for growing wages and earnings across the country.

It is a sad reality that women in Australia today still do not over their lifetimes earn the same as men.

Our equal pay laws often fail to reflect the extra responsibilities in life that many women face that can prohibit progress in careers and result of lower lifetime earnings.

But there is also a problem with traditionally ‘feminised’ industries — that is, jobs in which women tend to be the dominant workers — being underpaid.

Jobs like nursing, caring, teaching, retailing and others often have a limited earnings potential when compared with occupations dominated by men.

This undervaluation of women’s skills poses real impositions on the life-time earnings of women in this country.

Anne Summers famously summed up the issue: there is a $1 million penalty being born a woman in Australia. It is a sad truth.

But by acknowledging the problem, active steps can be made to address it.

Job security, too, is an often ignored aspect of the wage growth debate. Job insecurity — that is, the fear of worry about losing one’s job, has en enormous impact on the Australian economy.

We estimate in the report that this fear — this insecurity and worry about whether or not you will be able to provide for your kids, pay your next mortgage bill, save for a rainy day — costs Australia billions every year.

The cost of relationship breakdowns alone — often related to the fears around job loss — alone costs Australia $4.3 billion annually.

Job insecurity causes mental health problems, lowers performance at work and lessens productivity. It is a scourge in this country, and it must be addressed.

Most Australians too, don’t even work in a single job long enough to accrue benefits like long-service leave.

The vast majority of Australians move jobs frequently

While it’s important to maintain some fluidity in the job market — people should be able to move to a better paying job when they desire — entitlements like long-service leave should be portable, giving workers the security that one day, they will be able to take leave, recharge the batteries, and re-enter the workforce refreshed and more productive.

Superannuation Growth

The second priority area we’ve focused on is growing superannuation, in a fairer, more equitable way.

Super is the backbone of our retirement scheme. The pension will always and should always play a vital role, but few of us want to depend on what will always be the limited means offered by the aged pension.

Super provides us with security, it alleviates the government budget, and creates vase pools of wealth which can be re-invested into important nation-building projects, like roads and other infrastructure.

We need to reform superannuation, return its growth to the 12 % mark put forward by the previous Labor government, and make sure that more workers are actually getting super contributions in the first place.

We found researching this report that just a decade ago, only 43 per cent of employers were fully compliant with their superannuation payments.

While usually, employers who do not provide appropriate superannuation payments are doing so by accident, occasionally, the reasons are more nefarious.

And the way our workforce is changing — the rise of contracting and casual work — means that many workers miss out on appropriate super.

The problem is most acutely felt by women, however, who retire with, on average, 50 % of the superannuation holdings of men in this country.

It is arguably the single biggest inequity in our society. It is a scourge, and an indictment on the structure of our economy that enables this inequity to exist.

There are many ways in which the gender super gap can be addressed: rising the lower-income superannuation contribution, giving women superannuation on maternity leave and other carers allowances, just to name a couple.

Superannuation is one of the pillars of our economy and central to our society. It’s potential mustn’t be limited to half the population.

Education

Thirdly, we argue that we need to aim to reform our education system into one that is the envy of the world.

We have an inequitable education system — one that occasionally unfairly allocates too many resources to schools or institutions that don’t need it as bad as others — and a system that is not flexible enough to meet individual needs.

The Gonksi reforms were an example of exemplary public policy making: they brought along the public, and were, at the time, bi-partisan. More than 60 per cent of voters still back the plan.

Gonski wasn’t just throwing more money at the problem, it was targeted to meet the individual needs that factor in the diversity of our children.

I am certain that history will condemn the government for largely abandoning this landmark reform in our education system.

But education reform goes beyond schools. We need a robust vocational education system that is seen as a legitimate form of education as university.

Currently, only around 50 per cent of apprentices and trainees nationwide actually complete their certificates. The system needs to be galvanized, focusing on better overall education standards to achieve higher retention, and greater enrolment.

And we can’t ignore early childhood education, which is known to be of such vital importance to the development of our greatest asset: our kids.

At the moment, early childhood education is too expensive and not universal. Other countries — France, Norway, and the UK in particular, strongly incentivize parents to send their kids to early childhood education centers, through free hours, grants etc.

Our system, based almost solely on a childcare rebate, ignores the need for robust early education in our pre-schools, to give kids the best start at life.

In general, education needs to be seen more holistically. Early childhood, primary and secondary, tertiary and vocational education are all of equal importance to improving education outcomes in this country.

Housing Affordability

“We are a nation that can no longer afford to house ourselves” — Chris Bowen MP.

Priority 4 in Choosing Opportunity is improving housing affordability.

The McKell Institute has been particularly strong in this area, but the two main recommendations we are really striving for is the reform of negative gearing, and the reform of stamp duty.

By now, most of us know the damning stats: a generation ago, a house cost 5 times the average annual income. In most parts of Sydney, its now about 15 times the average income.

In the rest of the country, an average house will cost around 10 years the average annual income.

The growth in housing prices hasn’t reflected the growth in incomes, and people are suffering for it. I personally cannot foresee a circumstance in Sydney where I will ever own a home: I’m already looking elsewhere.

A country cannot achieve equity if its biggest city can’t offer homes at an affordable price for the average citizen.

So to achieve a change — we need to limit rising house prices and let incomes catch up.

There are two main levers that can be pulled here: limiting negative gearing concessions to new homes, and changing stamp duty so that upfront costs for home buyers are minimised.

You can see that of all investment in housing, almost all of it goes towards existing houses. How can we expect enough new houses to be built if this investment continues?

The bulk of investments in housing goes towards established housing .We need to incentivize new housing to boost supply.

Limiting the benefits of negative gearing will help remedy this problem.

And stamp duty is simply putting up a barrier to new home buyers. In Sydney, the average stamp duty cost is $40,000. Home buyers should have the option to pay a similarly valued land tax, minimising this up front burden.

Transport Disadvantage

While housing affordability is today’s crisis, the crisis of tomorrow is transport disadvantage.

Transport disadvantage refers to the lack of access so many Australians have to vital transport services.

This can be for a range of reasons: low incomes, geographic isolation, disability or age.

But if you cannot access vital services through adequate transport, you cannot contribute sufficiently to society.

Strategic investment and planning in infrastructure is pivotal, and these investments should factor in transport disadvantage.

We recommend a national inquiry to look into this looming challenge, and the granting of further resources and autonomy to key infrastructure planning organisations like Infrastructure Australia.

New Economy

The sixth priority area we address in the report is investing in the ‘new economy’.

Now, I know ‘new economy’ sounds just like a buzzword, and perhaps it is to an extent.

But it is important we embrace the change that is occurring in the economy, invest strategically to facilitate the best of that change, and come through the other end with an advanced, fairer economy that offers new, diverse employment opportunities for the next generation.

We need a better focus on STEM at all education levels; we need to allocate more resources to upskilling and retraining the existing workforce; we need to invest more resources across the entire innovation chain — from early research, to business support; and we need to increase our investments in research and development to at least reach the OECD average.

An advanced, nimble, and highly skilled and educated workforce will be the backbone of tomorrow’s economy. To get there, we need to see these investments today.

Healthcare

Priority area 7 that we looked at was modernising the provision of healthcare in Australia.

Now, while healthcare is a policy area that is endless in its challenges, one aspect that we need to focus on is its modernisation: implementing the technological changes the industry needs to provide better outcomes for patients and researchers.

When we wrote a report recently on this topic, we find some damning anecdotal evidence about the lack of harmonisation between certain levels of healthcare provision.

One story was compelling: a paramedic at a hospital in Queensland, when in the back of the ambulance with her patient, manually inputted all the vital information into a tablet, hoping to transfer all this information immediately to the local hospitals system.

But when she arrived, they found the two systems were incompatible: all the data that was put on that tablet, had to be manually re-entered on the hospitals system, wasting valuable, precious minutes as the patient waited.

There are so many cases like this. Integrating technological systems, using patient data better and more widely, can solve the issues of clunky communication between different levels of the health care system.

Reforming our Tax Code

And finally, our tax code needs reform to ensure its fairer, and confidence in government is bolstered.

We’ve seen the subversion of tax codes around the world degrading the publics confidence in governance.

The Panama Papers exposed the height of the inequity in global tax codes. Simply, those who can afford influence can avoid paying their fair share — while those of us who do our work day in, day out, are afforded no such luxury.

The situation hasn’t reached crisis point in Australia, yet.

But we must be proactive in cracking down on tax loopholes, ensuring multinationals pay their share of the tax burden.

But we should also use tax concessions strategically to grow our new economy. Targeting tax concessions to the right places can foster investment in the areas we need.

Using the tax code to incentivize investment in research and development, renewable energy, affordable childhood education and other areas are how we can leverage our tax code for the benefit of our future economy.

So many good tax reform options are already on the table: negative gearing reform, reduction in capital gains tax concessions, reforming superannuation tax concessions, as well as others, that are simply stalled in the political process.

We need to get real, make these necessary changes, and ensure that those who can most afford to pay a fair level of taxation are doing so.

Conclusion

Now there’s much more detail we could go into, but I’ll end simply on this:

Australia needs a new, big, ambitious approach to reform.

Our long-term GDP growth is down, public confidence in government is low, and the ugly heads of populist, nativist politics are rearing their heads, capitalising on the failure of governments to do their job, and inclusively guide this country through the challenging period we are facing.

We need to change the country from the bottom up, not the top down.

We must as a society remember the embracing equal opportunity is a choice — one that can be made or avoided. Its the harder choice — it requires a bolder vision, a more ambitious agenda, more creative foresight. But it is the only real choice we have.

Bill Shorten said it succinctly when launching this very report: “equal opportunity is not a growth dividend; it is a growth strategy.”

And it’s a strategy that we should put in place today.


The full report ‘Choosing Opportunity’ can be explored here:http://mckellinstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/mckell-fairer-aus.pdf