A longstanding member of the EABC’s Corporate Council, Peter Harris AO is one of Australia’s preeminent public policy advisers. His distinguished career, across both State and Commonwealth levels, has spanned a plethora of key sectors and portfolios, including transport, infrastructure, environment, digital economy, telecommunications and productivity. We last engaged with Peter in 2020 in his capacity then as CEO of the NCCC with the responsibility for coordinating the advice to the Australian Government on actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, and to facilitate a fast and strong recovery.
While Australia’s economic rebound has been among the fastest in the developed world, Australia’s slow vaccination rate leaves the economy susceptible to large outbreaks and accompanying restrictions. These create insurmountable challenges for many businesses, intensify the unevenness of recovery, hamper skilled migration, and depress incoming foreign investment flows (which was down by nearly 50% in 2020). In order to secure sustainable and broad-based growth in the future, Australia will also need to address the acceleration of structural shifts to the economy and underlying vulnerabilities, only exacerbated by the pandemic. In the decade leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s economic growth on a per capita basis (GDP and GNI) had slowed to the lowest rate in 60 years. The stagnation of wage growth is being driven by rising underemployment, low labour productivity, and declining contributions from labour utilisation including trade and inflows of foreign capital.
During Peter’s tenure as Chair, the Productivity Commission issued Australia’s inaugural five-year productivity review in 2017. The “Shifting the Dial” report warned that given the outlook for population growth, demographics and labour participation rates, economic expansion and high living standards would be reliant on significant reform to stimulate the country’s sluggish productivity growth. Recommendations included improvements to market efficiency, to electricity and regulatory systems; and for non-market sectors, with a focus on reforms in healthcare, education, the innovation ecosystem, using data, creating well-functioning cities, and institutional effectiveness.
The forum will provide the timely opportunity to discuss the country’s economic and fiscal outlook, outlined in the recently released 2021 Intergenerational Report; the many economic challenges facing Australia, including the implications of recent lockdowns in Melbourne, Sydney and South Australia; and perspectives on the most effective microeconomic reform levers at the disposal of State and Commonwealth governments.
This event was attended on behalf of the Norwegian Chamber by Sophia Demetriades and Lily Tindale