Plenary session four: Why is economic reform so hard

For a while now our economy has been Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Inflation has been stubbornly high for more than a year, but unemployment is very low and wages growth picking up. What’s more, the government has announced the first surplus in 15 years as a result of booming revenue.
But underneath the surface, problems abound. There is a real chance of recession among our major trading partners, and here in Australia as well. People are suffering from rapidly rising interest rates and cost of living pressures. Many people feel like it’s impossible to get ahead. Productivity is low and growth predicted to drop sharply next year.

How do we fix it? Can we get things working again or are we heading towards a fundamentally different economy where government, business and unions increasingly work together towards their own aims.
Neither side of politics has a real agenda to deliver economic growth, or to address runaway spending in some areas of the budget. What can be done, especially in a polarised political environment, to fix the longer-term sustainability of the Budget and pursue a more productivity focused agenda?
It’s the perennial question: why is economic reform so hard?

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Director and Founder of the Centre for Independent Studies

Professor of Public Policy and Director, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis in the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University


Sociologist, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney.
Author of The New Authoritarianism

Director, Free Market Foundation, (Hungary)

Health Director, Health and BioSecurity, CSIRO

Director and Founder, Academy of Ideas, London, (UK)

Founder and CEO, Cognoscenti Group

Executive Director, The New Zealand Initiative (NZ)

Australian writer and columnist for the News Limited Press

Research Director, CIS

Programme Co-ordinator of the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning, The University of Western Australia

Chinese Canadian human rights advocate

Senior Research Fellow, Culture, Prosperity & Civil Society Program, CIS

CEO and Founding Director, China Matters

Former Liberal member of the Australian House of Representatives and Cabinet Minister

Pro Vice-Chancellor Arts and Academic Culture, and Professor of History, Australian Catholic University

Cancer researcher and clinical oncologist, with Genesis Care Newcastle

Founder and President, Middle East Forum, publisher Middle East Quarterly Journal, (US)

Professor of Economics, University of Melbourne

Senior Research Fellow and Director, Culture, Prosperity & Civil Society Program, CIS

Internationally acclaimed novelist and journalist, (US)

Head of Economic Research, Reserve Bank of Australia

Executive Director, CIS

Professor of Economics at Stanford University; Senior Fellow in Economics at the Hoover Institution and Chair of the Working Group on Economic Policy, (US)

UQ-CSIRO Chair in Personalised Nanodiagnostics, Professorial Research Fellow, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, University of Queensland

Diplomat, American Board of Pathology

Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure

Liberal Party Member for Berowra

Australia’s Ambassador to China from 2007 to 2011, Chairman & CEO of Geoff Raby and Associates Ltd based in Beijing

Director of China and Free Societies program, CIS

Senior Research Scholar, Marron Institute of Urban Management, New York University, (US)