All Events

The McKell Institute’s Events provide an environment for senior policy makers, business people and community leaders to engage with audiences on important contemporary issues.

We have hosted a wide range of leaders, from former Australian Prime Ministers, senior state and federal Ministers and Premiers, and senior business figures, to esteemed international dignitaries, including the former Prime Minister of Italy Enrico Letta, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Senior Advisor John Podesta and former US Congressman Barney Frank.

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Past Events

  • Tim Pallas, Treasurer of Victoria.

    Treasurer of Victoria Hon Tim Pallas MP addresses The McKell Institute to discuss the future of the Victorian economy. Hosted by Allens Linklaters.



    Sir William McKell is a significant figure in Labor history. NSW Premier from 1941 to 1947, and later Governor–General, he is known for many things.

    Sir William was important in toning down populist rhetoric in favour of a more structured and considered view of public policy.

    The Institute’s work in seeking to uphold that considered discussion of public policy is a noble tradition, and one that it does well.

    Sir William was born in Pambula – a place which would have been in Victoria but for the manner in which the Black–Allan line was so egregiously drawn. The fact that he became a Premier of New South Wales and not Victoria, largely due to the arbitrary drawing of the line, was just the first in a long line of injustices inflicted upon the state of Victoria, otherwise known as the milking cow of the Federation. So it’s fortuitous that 90% of the nation’s dairy industry is based there.

    Let me also add that I’m delighted to be back in NSW. Your Premier was suitably confused at the recent sold out State of Origin match at our MCG. I didn’t know if it was because I was wearing my Blues scarf as a born and bred New South Welshman, or because he hadn’t seen a capacity crowd for a while.

    So, an overview of things south of the Murray, and that dodgy Black Allan line.

    Today I’d like to share with you where I think Victoria’s economy is now; what our distinctive strengths are, and what this means for the future.


    The Andrews Labor Government was elected in November on a platform of putting Victorians first.

    We told the community what we were going to do, and the community backed us. When we said ‘no surprises’, we meant it.

    McKell once said that he’d based his 1944 election victory on ‘the solid foundation of promises kept, and on the unchallenged record of three years of unremitting work.’

    In Victoria, we promised more investment in services and we haven’t wasted a second of time getting on with it.

    We spelled out our plan for building the jobs and industries of the future.

    And we offered a different view of the State’s infrastructure priorities.

    Whilst my colleagues in other jurisdictions may bemoan the depreciation of the Australian dollar – it has helped us in Victoria, and it has given a whole new geographical meaning to a two speed economy.

    I echo my federal counterpart’s measured response to recent share market movements. Essentially, while there are always challenges, the fundamentals are strong and our economy is resilient.

    Exports are up, manufacturing confidence is higher than it’s been in years, and we are regaining our status as the engine room of the Australian economy.

    The state is producing jobs at a healthy rate, household spending is strong, the manufacturing index is positive and exports are growing.

    National Accounts figures released in June show Victoria streaking ahead of the other states.

    Growth in demand was up 1.3 per cent for the March quarter and 3.4 per cent for the year, underlining the strength of the Victorian economy. This is the strongest it has been since September 2010.

    Our first budget, which I handed down in May, was about keeping our word and setting Victoria up for the future. It was about restoring trust and establishing a strong fiscal foundation.

    While delivering 96 per cent of our promises in health, education, jobs and infrastructure, our first Budget kept the rate of spending growth over the forward estimates below that of revenue growth.

    We projected an operating surplus in excess of $1 billion for every year of the forward estimates. We projected net debt to come down from 6% of GSP in 2013–14 to 4.4% in 2018–19.

    We promised Victorians that jobs would be a focus. The unemployment rate in Victoria is already down from 6.9% to 6.4%. In the eight months of government we have created 55,600 jobs.

    Yes, Victorians are getting their confidence back, wages are steady, consumer sentiment and spending is growing, but there is still plenty of work to do.

    As a Government, we recognise that you can’t build the confidence needed to prosper if the community does not trust you.

    I stated in my first Budget that longer–term thinking, and a larger public conversation, would be needed about how we position, prepare and plan for the future.

    Having restored public trust, and having established strong fiscal foundations, we can do so from a position of strength.


    1. Our strength – our people–powered economy

    Melbourne is the world’s most liveable city – for the fifth year in a row. In the same survey, Sydney (Harbour and all) got beat by Adelaide.

    Victoria isn’t endowed with Sydney’s harbour, or Queensland’s sunshine and beaches, or the mineral riches of the north and west.

    Our economy is people powered.

    Compared with the national average, Victoria’s economy is:

    • More labour (rather than capital) intensive;
    • More services–based than goods–based; and
    • More dominated by the ‘household’ economy.

    Victoria’s fastest growing industries (including professional services, finance/insurance and health) have relatively low capital intensity.

    Services account for about 77 per cent of Victoria’s economy, compared with 70 per cent nation–wide.

    On the expenditure side, two thirds of Victoria’s demand is on household consumption and dwelling investment – more than any other state and well above the national average.

    This has meant we have needed to look outwards and forwards. This led us to invest in our people – in their skills, their ideas and their energy


    People–powered economy

    What does this mean for Government? It means that to grow a people–powered economy, policy needs to focus on the following:

    • continuing to attract and support strong population growth;
    • having a skilled labour force; and
    • investing in the infrastructure to support them.

    A giant of science and innovation in New Zealand, the late Sir Paul Callaghan had a vision for his homeland of becoming the place where talent wants to live.

    It is a vision that Victoria has adopted, and in some respects, has made its own: investing in a great quality of life has created a platform from which we have attracted smart and creative people, and with it forged an innovative and dynamic economy.

    Victoria now enjoys the highest share of tertiary qualified people of all states.

    This is no accident.

    Labor in Victoria has a long, proud tradition of investing heavily in education, one that we have continued in the 15–16 Budget.

    We are committed to making Victoria the education state, because we understand the vital importance of an educated and highly skilled workforce in delivering a prosperous future for our state.

    Our economy is diversifying from a strong industrial base to a balanced mix that includes services and a more modern knowledge–based economy. Increasing demand for skills highlights the importance of quality outcomes of the education and training system. All Victorian workers from manufacturing to professional services will benefit from a renewed focus on a strong, responsive and high quality training system.

    We are also making sure that we focus on individual progress: our success will ultimately come down to the quality of each and every interaction between teachers, students, and the curriculum they’re engaging with.

    It sounds simple, but given the complexity of how the human brain acquires and retains new knowledge, we know that it’s not – which is why work in this area is central to our development of the education state.

    Melbourne also attracts more international students, and more migrating business entrepreneurs, than any other Australian city.

    And Victoria attracts more and more people from other States. Those moving from New South Wales to Victoria have been – and remain – the largest element of Australia’s inter–regional migration.

    Much like liveability, a people–powered economy doesn’t just happen – it requires active policy, active participation and active partnership.

    That’s why our Government’s focus is on six industries poised for extraordinary growth and primed for Victorian expertise – medical technology and pharmaceuticals; new energy technology; food and fibre processing; transport, defence and construction technology; international education; and professional services.

    These industries harness the diversity of metropolitan Melbourne and rural and regional Victoria. It continues Victoria’s economic evolution from a sheep station to a gold mine, to a factory, to today, a highly skilled labour market.

    And through initiatives like the Premier’s Jobs and Investment Panel, the Future Industries Fund, the Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund, the ‘start up initiative’ and our commitment to make Victoria the education state, we will grow those sectors that offer the best prospects for future growth.


    This growth needs to be underpinned by not only economic infrastructure, but social infrastructure, to ensure both economic productivity and a good quality of life.

    Our first budget delivers significant investment in new capital projects for all Victorians with a total new investment of around $22 billion.

    We are investing in a number of high priority areas that will make a difference to the day–to–day lives of Victorians.

    More than $17 billion will be invested in road and public transport projects to ease congestion, stimulate the economy, create jobs and enable people and goods to move more freely in and around Melbourne and Victoria.

    We are acting now to support investments in projects that will build economic capacity, and create the jobs needed to keep Victoria growing.

    Furthermore, Infrastructure Victoria and Projects Victoria will be established this year to oversee long–term strategic planning, coordination and completion of large scale projects.

    Infrastructure Victoria will be open and transparent – it will publish business cases that clearly highlight the value of particular infrastructure. Empowered to act independently, both bodies will ensure that Victorian governments of the day are held to account on the decisions they make.

    The Bracks/Brumby Labor Governments of the 2000s were innovators in the use of public–private partnerships.

    We put in place the Partnerships Victoria model and delivered major new infrastructure through PPPs, including Victoria’s first ever schools PPP, the Royal Children’s Hospital redevelopment, and Eastlink.

    The model’s success was highlighted during the Global Financial Crisis, when our reputation and regard allowed us to attract competitive private finance and fund projects such as Peninsula Link and AgriBio.

    PPPs have proven to be a valuable tool for harnessing innovation in the private sector and ensuring efficient project delivery of priority infrastructure projects.

    This Labor Government has gone the next step.

    The new Market Led Proposals process allows Government to benefit from the innovation and ideas, which the private sector can bring, to our priority areas.

    The model allows private sector project proponents to present their ideas to government, and for government to deal exclusively with that party where there is unique intellectual property and public interest in doing so.

    We know that Government is not the sole repository of good ideas. We are looking at other ways to work in partnership with the private sector.

    This reflects a modern Labor approach, one that I’d like to think Sir William would have been proud of.

    This reformist attitude is also reflective in our approach to asset recycling. It is not in Victorians’ best interests to have funds tied up in existing assets and idle balance sheets, while being unable to afford significant new public assets which can unlock productivity and improve living standards.

    Any government that turns its back on its ability to take care of its most vulnerable citizens is just not doing its job.

    When in Opposition, we were the first to propose a lease over the Port of Melbourne as a way to fund new, productivity–enhancing infrastructure – namely the removal of 50 level crossings.

    As we foreshadowed, the Andrews Government, a modern Labor Government, will continue to look for opportunities to free up capital, where it is in the community’s interests to do so, by recycling existing government assets and investing the money into new infrastructure.

    We also need to begin a serious and sensible conversation about the role of public debt in meeting our infrastructure needs.

    If we can’t have this conversation now –with continued population pressures,with state debt trending down,

    with the rate of recurrent spending growth below that of revenue growth, and

    with the cost of borrowing at an all–time low– we never will.

    At a low of just 2.28 per cent in February, the current Commonwealth Government’s 10–year borrowing of 2.65 per cent is close to the cheapest it has ever been.

    Victoria is able to borrow at rates under 3 per cent – the lowest we have ever been able to borrow at.

    Let me be clear. I will never advocate using debt to fund recurrent spending.

    But I will also never take sensible options off the table today, to build the necessary infrastructure for tomorrow.

    I won’t take options off the table that create jobs for Victorians.

    That improves the liveability and amenity of Victoria.

    That helps grow the Victorian economy and provide a better and brighter future for our children.

    This infrastructure needs to be rigorously costed, have a positive benefit cost ratio and must be of state significance.

    Underpinning this approach is the notion that prudent debt management goes hand in hand with the notion of ensuring public value.

    The Government made an election commitment to deliver substantial operating surpluses and maintaining a Triple A rated economy.

    And this commitment will be met.

    But this shouldn’t prevent the State from using its balance sheet strategically to ensure the public gets value – value from strategically important infrastructure.

    The former Victorian Coalition Government refused to entertain the idea of debt to fund infrastructure of state significance.

    It was a conversation they refused to countenance, while they set about tripling the debt they inherited from Labor.

    They significantly cut spending on essential services – health, education, police, and child protection – to fund those surpluses.

    We manage the present as custodians of the future.

    These surpluses were only achievable by restricting expenditure growth to just 2.5 per cent on average per year.

    Taking into account inflation and population growth, 2.5 per cent is not sustainable – and it cannot deliver the services Victorians need and deserve.

    I think everyone in this room would agree – that is not responsible financial management.

    That is not responsible government.

    Our more sustainable level of expenditure growth of 3.0 per cent remains under revenue growth (3.4 per cent). This includes our election commitments, new policy and ensures our forward estimates aren’t premised on a fictional level of expenditure growth that would never be achieved.

    Labor’s four years of surpluses provides a buffer for the future, while delivering on our election commitments and ensuring that essential services are not compromised.

    They are also greater than the average surplus of the last ten years [04/05–13/14].

    Our surpluses are lower, but they are responsible, they are more resilient, and they are more credible.

    I will not rely on illusory surpluses to fund infrastructure of state significance – I want all the options on the table for serious consideration, and debt is one of those.


    We have a strong, people–powered economy growing faster than the national average.

    But we cannot rest on our laurels; we must plan for the future.

    As the Greek proverb states: a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

    Investing in tomorrow’s infrastructure, today, is critical to maintaining Victoria’s world–leading quality of life, attracting the world’s best and brightest, and further strengthening our people–powered economy.

    I am throwing out the political play book – the populist decrying of debt – and advocating for an honest conversation about how we build that infrastructure, how we make smart choices, and how we deliver it responsibly. The time for that conversation is now.

    I look forward to progressing it over coming months, and I hope that at least some of you will be a part of it.

    Thank you.

    Victoria could ramp up debt to pay for new projects, says Treasurer Pallas

    Josh Gordon for The Age

    Victoria is considering ramping up borrowing to pay for future infrastructure, with Treasurer Tim Pallas promising to throw out the “populist” political rule book decrying debt.

    In a speech to Sydney’s McKell​ Institute signalling departure from past practice, Mr Pallas also said the previous government’s efforts to limit spending growth to 2.5 per cent a year led to an “unsustainable” erosion of services when compared with population growth and inflation

    .Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas: "I am throwing out the political play book."

    Instead, Victoria will adopt a more expansionary target of 3 per cent spending growth – which is still below expected revenue growth.

    Although Mr Pallas promised to maintain a buffer of budget surpluses and protect Victoria’s AAA credit rating, he said at a time of record-low interest rates it would be irresponsible not to consider increasing borrowing to boost the economy.

    “I am throwing out the political play book – the populist decrying of debt – and advocating for an honest conversation about how we build that infrastructure, how we make smart choices, and how we deliver it responsibly,” he said.

    The May budget predicted net debt would fall sharply from about 5.8 per cent of the economy this year to just 4.4 per cent in mid-2016 as cash from selling the Port of Melbourne hits the bottom line. This is still considerably more than NSW, which is predicting net debt of just 1.9 per cent this financial year and 2.2 per cent next year.

    The state government has promised to plough the proceeds from the port sale – expected to be about $6 billion – into its plan to remove 50 level crossings over two terms.

    But beyond that there are lingering questions about how it will pay for other road and rail proposals, including the $11 billion Melbourne Metro rail project, which Labor has promised to start building before 2018.

    “We also need to begin a serious and sensible conversation about the role of public debt in meeting our infrastructure needs,” Mr Pallas said.

    “If we can’t have this conversation now – with continued population pressures, with state debt trending down, with the rate of recurrent spending growth below that of revenue growth, and with the cost of borrowing at an all-time low – we never will.”

    His comments follow calls by Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens for a carefully considered pipeline of national infrastructure projects to keep the economy healthy during slow patches.

    Economist Saul Eslake also recently told a Senate committee the federal government could afford to borrow about $50 billion for infrastructure without jeopardising the AAA credit rating.

    The business community has supported the notion of using state and federal debt for productive, rigorously tested projects.

    Mr Pallas said the previous Coalition state government had refused to entertain the idea of debt to fund significant infrastructure. This thinking had necessitated cuts to spending on services.

    “They significantly cut spending on essential services – health, education, police, child protection – to fund these services,” Mr Pallas said.

    Shadow Treasurer Michael O’Brien​ accused Labor of breaking a promise to keep a lid on debt. “Having wasted so much money, the Andrews Government cannot justify hiking Victoria’s debt to pay for their unfunded promises,” Mr O’Brien said.

    But Mr Pallas said the previous government’s attempts to limit spending increases to 2.5 per cent a year did not represent responsible economic management. Instead, Victoria will adopt a new target to keep spending growth at about 3 per cent a year, still less than the forecast revenue growth of 3.4 per cent.

    That means future surpluses might be smaller than they otherwise would have been, which could make the already finely balanced task of keeping Victoria’s AAA credit rating even more difficult.

    “I will not rely on illusory surpluses to fund infrastructure of state significance, I want all the options on the table for serious consideration and debt is one of those,” Mr Pallas said.

  • Dr Enrico Letta, Former Prime Minister of Italy

    The 55th Prime Minister of Italy Dr Enrico Letta addresses The McKell Institute. Hosted by PwC
  • Pre Budget Address with Opposition Leader Hon Bill Shorten MP

    Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten delivers his pre-budget address to an audience at The University of Sydney's Great Hall.


    MONDAY, 4 MAY 2015



    It’s an honour to be here at this great Australian university, at the invitation of the McKell Institute.

    I’m here today with three objectives:

    One, to explain what the transition underway in our economy means for Australian jobs – today and tomorrow – and what this transition demands of our national budget and national leaders.

    Two, to outline the tests the next Abbott-Hockey Budget must meet, in our national interest – not just the government’s political interests.

    And three, to dedicate Labor to the positive plans and policies Australia needs to succeed in the future.

    The Australian Economy in Transition
    When William McKell was Governor-General, he delivered the opening address at the “United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East”.

    It was time, he said, for Australians to start thinking of the “Far East” as our “Near North”.

    Back then, this was headline-making rhetoric.

    Today, it’s an unremarkable statement of fact.

    Seven decades of work has gone into this transformation.

    Opening ourselves to mass migration, offering opportunity to people from every faith, culture and tradition.

    Dismantling the tariff wall that crippled competition and kept prices high.

    Demanding a shift in the national mindset…urging Australians to see ourselves not as a British outpost perched fearfully on the edge of Asia, but as engaged partners in the economic and strategic security of our region.

    None of this was without risk or universally popular.

    We all know someone dislocated by change, we can all feel anxious about the future – and there are always people prepared to pander to this fear: be that on immigration or economic reform.

    But, long ago, we realised that digging ideological trenches and building economic walls was not the answer.

    Australians chose optimism over isolationism, renewal over decay, action over complacency, hope over fear.

    We looked over the economic horizon and backed ourselves to compete and succeed in the new world.

    And there is always another horizon.

    Right now, with the biggest mining investment boom in our history drawing to a close, we face the choices and challenges of a new era.

    An era defined by clean energy industries, digital and technological innovation, the equal treatment of women, a booming services economy and two generations of retirees alive at the same time.

    It’s time to start building for the Australia of 2025.

    Time to plan for the next decade: creating jobs today and preparing Australians for the jobs of tomorrow.

    Twenty-seven million people will live in the Australia of 2025, five million of us will be over 65 and five million of us will be between 15 and 24.

    An extra four and a half million people will live in our capital cities.

    A woman aged 60 in 2025 will expect to live for at least another 30 years. A man, at least another 27 years.

    We’ll have a superannuation pool of $4 trillion.

    And of the two million new jobs created between now and then, two-thirds will need a degree.

    These are non-negotiables, they are global shifts, they will be the challenges and opportunities for whoever governs in the decade ahead.

    Yet our opponents only ever talk about the future as a dystopian mix of The Hunger Games and Mad Max.

    Their language is always threats, not opportunities.

    I take a different view, I think we’ve had enough negativity.

    I’m not daunted by the challenges ahead, I’m energised, I’m ambitious for what Australia can achieve.

    The end of the mining investment boom must not mean lowering our expectations or settling for a lesser future.

    We weathered the storm of the Global Financial Crisis, and now, in the second decade of the Asian Century we stand as the world’s 12th biggest economy in the world’s fastest growing region.

    Australia is uniquely positioned to seize the opportunities of this moment.

    We hold a hard-won AAA credit rating from the three major ratings agencies, giving confidence and certainty to business and investors – and we must preserve it.

    Our banks are some of the largest and safest in the world, our legal system and institutions are stable and respected.

    Our superannuation savings pool is the largest in Asia and the largest per capita in the world.

    Our education system supports a high quality, productive workforce, our cities are great, diverse destinations to live.

    And we adapt faster and better than most – Australia went from lagging the smartphone revolution to number two in the world in smartphone penetration in just one year.

    But a good barrier draw doesn’t mean the race is won.

    We have to put our hard-earned advantages to work.

    As Treasurer, Paul Keating used to talk about ‘pulling the levers’ of economic reform.

    Today, we seek government in a different world, a digital world where we engage with the complexity of an economic touch-screen.

    This means being selective and strategic in where we invest and what we prioritise, getting behind our best natural resource: the creativity and genius of our people.

    Building an Australia where the bright line of self-improvement runs right through pre-literacy in child care, technology in schools, science at university and re-training for mature-age workers or parents returning to work.

    This is my vision for the next generation of Australian prosperity.

    We are a fair wage nation, in a low wage region.

    We can’t win a race to the bottom with our neighbours on pay and conditions – they will always have more people willing to do low-skill work for less.

    This is why I’m focused on creating the high-wage, high-skill jobs of the future, nurturing and attracting the best minds.

    Competing and succeeding in our region – on our terms.

    Nothing matters more to me than creating good jobs, jobs with a future and jobs of the future.

    Some of you may have read The Second Machine Age, Chris Bowen actually gave it to me for Christmas – there’s one passage in there that really made me sit up and think about my kids and their future working lives:

    “There’s never been a better time to be a worker with special skills or the right education, because these people can use technology to create and capture value.
    There’s never been a worse time to be a worker with ‘ordinary skills’ and abilities to offer, because computers, robots and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate”.
    The choice is this stark, it is this simple: get smarter or get poorer.

    My vision for Australia is an invention nation, an innovation nation, investing in science to drive new breakthroughs and discoveries in every field and industry.

    Just look at how fast solar technology is evolving.

    In the last five years alone, the cost of a solar cell has halved.

    The cost of battery storage has been halving every 18 months.

    On Friday – Tesla released its plans for a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that you can use at home.

    Very soon, someone, somewhere, will find a way to make solar power even cheaper and more efficient.

    I want that someone to be an Australian.

    I want Australia to own that breakthrough and Australians to share its benefits.

    I want us to be building, designing and refining solar technology here.

    But wanting Australia to do well, believing in our people’s potential isn’t enough.

    Governments have to plan for the future – not just hope something will turn up.

    This begins with the Federal Budget.

    The Tests for the Budget

    Incredibly, a week before this year’s budget, we are still talking about last year’s budget.

    Last year, the Liberals called the economy wrong – and Australians have paid the price.

    Unemployment is up, confidence is down and wages are struggling to keep up with the cost of living.

    The Liberals called the budget wrong too.

    All the harm and hardship came without a sustainable trajectory for improving the budget balance.

    Now they want to use last year’s failed savings to fund this year’s new spending – this is Escher staircase economics.

    In the long months of partial backflips and gradual back-downs, ‘dull’ has become the adjective of choice.

    All this shows is the Liberals have learned the wrong lessons from last year’s debacle.

    The Abbott-Hockey Budget didn’t fail because it was too exciting, too visionary or too bold.

    It wasn’t because Australians are tired of change – or fearful of it.

    It failed because it was fundamentally unfair.

    The moral of this story is not: ‘give up on reform and tell people what they want to hear’.

    The real lesson is: do reform right, make change fair.

    When we live and work and trade in a global economy changing faster than any time in history, Australia can’t afford a ‘dull’ budget.

    We can’t afford a ‘dull’ budget or an ‘ordinary’ effort, any more than we can afford a re-run of last year’s disaster.

    We can’t afford an outbreak of shallow populism any more than we can afford a repeat of last year’s extreme ideology.

    We can’t afford a budget that puts Tony Abbott’s job ahead of Australian jobs.

    We need a budget planning for the next ten years, not a plan for Tony Abbott to survive to the end of the year.

    My intention today is to set out the tests this next budget must pass.

    Labor wants Australia to succeed, we want a strong budget for a growing, job-creating, wealth-creating economy.

    This means asking three clear questions on Budget night, on behalf of all Australians:

      1. Is this the right plan for the future?




      1. Is it honest and responsible?




      1. Is it fair?

    Planning for the future means a plan for jobs – today and tomorrow.

    Helping mature-age workers navigate the transition in our economy, addressing record rates of youth unemployment and investing in schools and universities to drive the skills and knowledge of the next wave of industries.

    Delivering essential, productive and competitive infrastructure for our cities and the regions.

    Universal healthcare, helping all Australians stay healthy at home and productive at work.

    The world’s best retirement income system: strong superannuation and a fair pension.

    An innovation economy where dynamic Australian entrepreneurs can turn their good ideas into successful start-ups, transforming markets as well as the way we live and work.

    A transition to a low pollution economy – making our industries more competitive, harnessing our natural resources and protecting our national estate.

    This where the future is heading – and this Budget is the government’s last chance to show it understands that.

    Being honest and responsible means an end to Hockey-nomics.

    No more mugging confidence in the high street, no more hot air about ‘Budget emergencies’ and ‘disasters’ behind every corner.

    No more blaming Labor for anything and everything.

    And no more accounting tricks and funny money, counting revenue from ‘dead, buried and cremated’ measures like the GP Tax.

    Instead, it’s time for the government to take responsibility: for restoring confidence and for a sustainable budget trajectory.

    We have already offered them a firm foundation.

    Labor’s responsible policy for tightening tax breaks on the superannuation accounts of the very wealthy, and our plan to make multinationals pay their fair share will deliver more than $20 billion to the bottom line, without hurting families or smashing confidence.

    Unlike the Liberals, Labor is prepared to deal with the structural challenges facing the budget and invest in a growing, wealth-creating, job-creating economy.

    Being fair means offering an equal opportunity – and expecting a fair contribution.

    It starts with recognising that inequality in Australia today is as high as it’s been in three-quarters of a century.

    Egalitarianism is under threat.

    Being fair means cracking down on tax loopholes for multinationals – not slugging families with $6000 cuts to their budget.

    Fairness is tightening superannuation concessions for the very wealthy, not telling pensioners to tighten their belts.

    Fairness means asking those with the broadest shoulders to do the most, not leaving the heavy lifting to those Australians least able to carry the load.

    The Contrast

    I’m going to do a dangerous thing now – I’m going to engage with a long-running press gallery argument.

    Dangerous, but necessary.

    Some members of the commentariat say the failure of last year’s Budget proves that ‘weak’ politicians and ‘selfish’ voters have broken our democracy.

    They say Australians lack the wit and wisdom to choose the best future for their nation – and leaders lack the courage to offer it to them.

    I don’t buy it.

    We’re better than the cynics and critics would have us believe.

    I know Australians haven’t lost the ability to make hard choices.

    From the very first day of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Labor acknowledged the complexity, the expense and the difficulty of crafting a solution.

    Instead of battering Australians with slogans, we engaged them in an honest conversation.

    We gave people a sense of their place on the journey of change, and our destination.

    And we won support for our cause through the quality of our ideas, and their moral foundation – backed up by the intellectual authority of the Productivity Commission and their advisory panel.

    The Abbott Opposition even voted for an increase in the Medicare levy to fund it.

    When Australians recoiled from the unfairness at the heart of the last budget they weren’t being selfish, or short-sighted.

    Australians rejected the 2014 Budget because they saw it for exactly what it was.

    Every day in my job, I am a fortunate witness to the resilience and resolve of the Australian people.

    There’s a hunger out there for big ideas, a desire for a government willing to do the big things.

    But it has to be done the right way – honest and upfront.

    Whether it’s the GP Tax, $100,000 degrees or cuts to the pension, we all know the Abbott pattern by now.

    Start by making a solemn promise, then break it…dismiss the public backlash and rail against your opponents…then, as reality bites, begin the slow humiliating retreat into consultation.

    This is not my style and it’s not the Labor way.

    Last year, we proved ourselves a strong opposition, united in resistance.

    We stood by our principles and we spoke up for millions of Australians the government let down and left behind.

    This year, we are putting forward our positive plans for the future:

    A constructive proposal to build, maintain and sustain the next generation of submarines here in Australia.  An investment in our national security and high-skill Australian jobs – clearly supported by today’s Defence Department revelations

    Offering certainty for jobs and investors in our renewable energy industry, where Australia should be seizing our natural and competitive advantages.

    A new focus on tackling family violence: a national crisis summit within our first 100 days, ending the ‘postcode lottery’ of unequal services and put the focus on perpetrator accountability, because every woman has the right to be safe in her home and in our community.

    The next step in university reform, building the bridge between enrolment and completion, a system converting uni places into degrees, into good jobs.

    Greater urgency on constitutional recognition for the first Australians and closing the justice gap – bringing together Indigenous leaders to build a consensus for progress.

    Making multinationals pay their fair share of tax in Australia and boosting the fairness and sustainability of retirement incomes, delivering long-term structural improvements to the budget trajectory, without Liberal ram-raids on the family budget.

    Laying out detail from Opposition carries risks, I understand that.

    Straight-talking guarantees you will say some things people don’t want to hear.

    There is a risk in amplifying differences, there is a risk in enhancing contrasts.

    But to my mind, there is a far greater risk: a second Abbott Government.

    More time wasted, more opportunities missed.

    More mediocrity born of close-minded, short-termism.

    And Australians haven’t come this far, we haven’t worked this hard to settle for ‘ordinary’, to accept a lesser future.

    Leadership is all about the future: planning for it, building for it, preparing our people to make the most of it. Under my leadership, Labor will seek an honest mandate.

    We will offer the Australian people a vision for the future and a plan to make it work.

    A vision for a nation strong in the region and the world, safe at home and fair in everything we do.

    And a detailed plan for smart people, working in a modern economy, sharing a fair future.

    A smart, modern and fair Australia.

  • Former Foreign Ministers Gareth Evans & Bob Carr

    Former Australian foreign ministers Gareth Evans and Bob Carr discuss the future of Australian foreign policy. Hosted by K&L Gates.
  • David Plouffe, head of public policy at Uber and former advisor to Barack Obama

    David Plouffe, head of public policy for Uber and former advisor to Barack Obama, addressed The McKell Institute at The University of Sydney.