Discussion paper

Since Federation, Australia has grown from a colonial outpost to a leading global economy on the back of a series of commodities booms. Successive generations have benefitted from continually improving living standards. But by inheriting lucrative, plentiful natural resources like coal and iron ore, our development has not cultivated the diversification necessary to thrive in an interconnected 21st-century economy—an economy that will be defined by a shift away from the fossil fuel resources that have powered the globe since the industrial revolution.

Australia's historical good fortune has bred complacency within the public policy community. A ‘she’ll be right mate’ attitude permeates public policy decision making ranks on both sides of the political divide. Seduced by the simplicity of reactive policy-making, we are sleepwalking into a future that will be defined by long-term, existential threats to our prosperity and way of life. Put simply, decades of geopolitical, economic, and social stability have dulled Australia’s understanding of risk—and its willingness to proactively confront it.

This paper argues that while improving Australia's capacity to address crises is important, the nation must also recognise that a series of worsening structural deficiencies in the economy imperil the country's future resilience and prosperity. The authors highlight two structural reform priorities: productivity and equality of opportunity.

The policy recommendations in this paper have been suggested to boost equality of opportunity and ensure everyone has a ‘fair go.’ They include action on housing affordability, measures to improve access to vocational education for young people who choose non-academic pathways, and true unemployment insurance to give people the security they need to pursue the best job for them.

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