Grattan Institute panel discusses policy priorities for next government

By Anna Macdonald

May 19, 2022

Danielle Wood
Grattan Institute CEO Danielle Wood. (AAP Image/Supplied by the Grattan Institute)

Acting CEO of the Grattan Institute Danielle Wood believes policy discussion during this election campaign has been ‘light on the ground’ and she’s saying so. 

With a handful of days to go until the election on Saturday, policy areas such as climate change, economy, health, and transport were discussed at length at an event on Wednesday evening, referencing the Grattan Institute’s 2022 Orange Book, the organisation’s take on the typical Red Book and Blue Book briefs for the incoming government. 

The lack of discussion about COVID and its continuing impact on the hospital system was flagged by the Grattan Institute’s previous health program director, now honorary enterprise professor at the University of Melbourne, Stephen Duckett.

Duckett criticised the lack of comment from both major parties on how they would address the issue.

“We need to address COVID. If you touch the hospital response, it will cost a lot of money. Anything about hospitals costs a lot of money, and that explains why Labor hasn’t wanted to say anything prior to the election. 

“But eventually, if Labor’s elected, it’s going to have to do something. If Liberal’s elected, who knows what they will do, but the states are going to scream,” Duckett said. 

The Grattan Institute’s director of the energy program, Tony Wood, made a plea for the next government to collaborate with its state and territory counterparts to have an integrated energy and climate policy. 

Earlier, Tony Wood described climate change policy as an ‘industrial revolution on a timetable’ when responding to a question about the Greens’ policies.

“What we to be very careful is not to underestimate the challenge, but also not to overestimate it,” Tony Wood said. “Unfortunately, what we tend to do is swerve from one side to the other. I think the Greens’ policy puts a marker out there in terms of what needs to be done in the longer term.”

When the panel was asked by acting CEO Wood which one policy they would choose for the next government to prioritise, economic policy program director Brendan Coates replied with migration, referencing a point made earlier in the event.

“We should be focusing on the composition of the skilled intake in particular because there’s some people that do very well,” said Coates. “There are some people in Australia who come as skilled migrants who are older, who tend not to speak great English, who don’t earn high incomes and that doesn’t bring benefits to the rest of the Australian community.”

Coates further pointed out changing migration would be relatively easy for a federal government, as the migration is solely within the commonwealth government’s powers.

On infrastructure, transport and cities, program director Marion Terrill criticised transport projects being announced, and subsequently implemented with minor changes, without proper consideration. 

“The main game this time around is that the Coalition’s promise is almost four times larger than Labor’s. Politicians don’t make any secret of the fact anymore that they do this to win votes. I’ve been startled by how unapologetic they are about what they’re doing,” Terrill said. 

Terril noted this time around the proposed spending from both of the major parties was less than in previous years. The director emphasised the importance infrastructure projects are made with due diligence in mind, and those decisions made at a federal level are of national significance, not comparatively small, hyperlocal decisions — alluding to the car park rorts.

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