Last Friday I was a speaker in the final panel session at the Melbourne Institute ‘Securing the Future’ conference, along with prominent economist Judith Sloan and fellow MP Andrew Leigh, the Labor Member for Fraser (in the ACT) and former ANU economist. This extremely important conference, sponsored by The Australian, attracted a heavyweight collection of policymakers, academics, officials and business people as speakers and participants.
Last night was another in the regular series of appearances by NBN CEO Mike Quigley before the Parliament’s NBN Joint Committee. This is supposed to be a mechanism for the Parliament, on behalf of taxpayers, to oversee the public investment being made in the national broadband network. The stakes are high: already taxpayers have pumped $2.7 billion into the government owned NBN Co and will be up for over $40 billion by 2021.
The Gillard Government has been on a knife-edge for so long now that we can sometimes forget how unstable it is. Developments in the last couple of weeks have been a good reminder – and have highlighted how fragile this government is.
For those who want to see the ‘missing link’ between the F3 and the M2 built as soon as possible, last week’s Infrastructure NSW Report is very good news. The report ranks it as the third highest priority motorway in NSW, following completion of the M4 and M5 upgrades.
Last week Infrastructure NSW released its report “First Things First”, setting out a NSW infrastructure strategy for the next twenty years. The report is a substantial and impressive piece of work. It sets out an ordered list of priorities for NSW infrastructure investment, based on a rational, fact-based assessment of which projects will deliver the greatest economic and social benefit; how much projects will cost; how much money there is available to spend; and available funding sources including both general government revenue (funded by taxes) and user charges (particularly tolls for users of motorways.)
I recently met with Chloe Van Dyck, a high school student who lives in my electorate. Chloe came to speak to me on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. JDRF supports research towards finding a cure for type-1 Diabetes.
Last week the House of Representatives passed the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill.
The policy intention is to combat the international trade in illegally logged wood - by making it illegal to import into Australia timber which has been illegally logged in other countries. So far, so good – we can all agree that it is highly desirable to stop criminals chopping down virgin rainforest in Indonesia or Brazil in breach of local laws.
One of the most important industry sectors in Australia is higher education.
In a competitive globalised economy the premium earned by people with innovative ideas is enormous. High wage advanced economies like Australia need to compete in areas of relative strength. Research and higher education is one such area.
The National Broadband Network is squandering public money on an unprecedented scale.
The chaos has been so great that some aspects have not received the scrutiny they really deserve.