New Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must take advantage of his popularity to drive economic and structural reform in Australia, says former Liberal leader John Hewson.
Speaking at the Citi Annual Australian and New Zealand Investment Conference in Sydney yesterday, Australian economist and former Liberal leader John Hewson said Malcolm Turnbull is in a position to drive economic change.
“Clearly the move to Turnbull is a question of a shift in the direction of hope," he said. “Malcolm has to turn his popularity into something substantial in terms of a believable, deliverable economic and social strategy.
“That’s a challenge, [but] he’s certainly capable of doing it.”
Mr Hewson argued that in order for Australia to transition away from a resources-based economy, there needs to be a national economic focus, such as increasing national productivity.
Government needs to set a goal, he said – for example, a 50 per cent increase in productivity by 2025. Policy in all sectors of the economy will then need to be reviewed in order to achieve the target.
“Then come back to each of the policy areas and look at what’s needed in a reform sense to create the circumstances [in] which that might be an achievable and deliverable objective,” he said.
“In political terms, drag the debate away from day-to-day, 24-hour, negative, opportunistic, populace sort of policies to something that’s medium-term [and] structural.
"You can actually win the argument politically, [but] it's going to take a government to actually own it and drive it... consistently, day in and day out," Mr Hewson said.
If broad-based structural reform is not initiated in all areas of the economy, unemployment and welfare dependency will rise and standards of living will decrease.
According to Mr Hewson, Australia has let good government "drift" for 10 to 15 years, with structural and policy problems getting bigger not smaller.
"The ultimate adjustment in any area now is going to be very significant and perhaps, in electoral terms, quite painful," he said.