More summit statements

Here are Nicholas Gruen’s 2020 answers (you can discuss them here too if you prefer).

1. If you could do one thing in your stream area what would it be? What is it that you think would make the most difference?

To provide what people want from them, markets must be well informed. But many markets are poorly informed – the market for surgeons, and teachers for instance. And how much do employees know about workplaces before they start work there? Information is generated about all these things – but we do little with it. Just as we did with National Competition Policy we should systematically trawl through our markets and indeed other social institutions, asking how well informed they are, and what can be done to improve information flows. The economic and human benefits could be immense.
The costs minimal.

2. You need to think and write about one issue over which you’ve changed your mind in the past 10 years. What is it? What changed your mind?

I once thought that we should regulate to improve information flows in markets. Now I think suasion can start a race to the top. The best market performers have an incentive to publish auditable information on their own (superior) performance. Why don’t they? Because comparative information between firms is only useful when reported against a standard. And each firm has an incentive to undermine a standard to put their own results in a more favourable light. Standards are public goods. Governments (or other social leaders) can help them emerge voluntarily by using their considerable powers of suasion.

Here are Bruce Chapman’s.

Bruce’s big idea:

A critical issue for skills development and individuals’ participation in the labour market involves the nature of government financial assistance.  An innovative, yet tried, instrument is income contingent loans (which are only repaid when individuals are in favourable future circumstances), and these can be used to make education and labour market participation more effective and productive. The best known, and internationally copied, Australian example is that of HECS. Similar potential policy applications include: abolishing all up-front fees for tertiary education; paid maternity leave; support for mature aged training; and to keep low-level criminal offenders engaged in paid work by paying fines through the tax system. These applications have already been extensively analysed and modelled from the perspective of public policy reform.

Something Bruce Chapman has changed his mind about in the last 10 years:

I used to believe that the most useful way to understand different public policy roles of government lay in the use of the left/right wing political spectrum.. However, a more instructive way of considering the roles of government lies in the concept of risk management. Governments intervene in many ways that essential entail the minimisation of risks. Public policy examples include: universal health insurance; means-tested pensions; occupational health and safety regulations; and road rules. In Australia we also use an income contingent loan (HECS) to minimise loan repayment risks for graduates. The instrument can be used in many other areas of public policy.

And over the fold (coz it’s >100w) is a submission from Advance, an organisation representing Australian expatriates.

Advance Submission to the Australia 2020 Summit

Talent for science, technology and innovation is born all over the world and nurtured in many places. However, in the last century, talent capable of harnessing ideas and turning them into new businesses and economic centres, has concentrated in key global cities and established centres for research and innovation: Silicon Valley and Harvard/MIT/Boston are two well known examples.

Australia produces a healthy share of citizens with world class skills in the sciences and in industries with a high requirement of innovation. A large number of these, our most talented citizens, head overseas to pursue their careers and their creativity. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for Australia.

In a wired world, a country which now has close to 10% of its working age citizens living and working overseas, should look to harness the economic and cultural benefits of this demographic phenomenon. I expect that in 2020 our three biggest resources will be: our people at home, our natural resources and our people-at-large- the world wide web of Australians.

Throughout the 1980s and 90s’ economic development policy in the developed world was highly influenced by Michael Porter who wrote about the power of clusters: geographic concentrations of interconnected businesses, suppliers, and associated institutions in a particular field. Clusters affect competitiveness in three ways: by increasing the productivity of the companies, by driving innovation and stimulating the development of new business. In recent years, the theory and practice is being updated to reflect the distributed nature of business operations in the wake of globalisation. The new model is around hubs and nodes and networks.  

The opportunity exists to build virtual clusters, social networks of talent in key fields.

Advance proposes that the creation of global virtual clusters of Australians in life sciences; media communications and technology, arts & culture and green technology.

Advance Global Networks (a not-for-profit organisation of Australian expatriates) with over 10,000 members, offices in New York, London and now Asia and members in key industries sectors around the world, is taking the first step: developing the global network of Australians. But to properly leverage the economic and social value possible, these clusters need to be established, promoted, resourced and connected with their domestic Australian counterparts.

Required inputs:

  • Þ Robust social networking platform with member driven activity
  • Þ Coordinators who research, cultivate and connect the Australian community abroad
  • Þ Publishing and promotion of the products and benefits of engaging with the cluster
  • Þ Business development in Australia to connect with all nodes and clusters with Australian centres of excellence in research and development


  • Þ Increased productivity of companies through direct reach into the global market for knowledge, talent, investment, partners, commercialisation opportunities
  • Þ Clusters of talent, information and trust through access to global market knowledge, latest innovation
  • Þ The development of new businesses
  • Þ The promotion and development of visible and accessible return paths for talented expatriates

The cost of establishing, seeding, and promoting four robust global virtual clusters of Australians in life sciences; media communications and technology, arts & culture and green technology would be A$3.8m over three years.

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2 Responses to More summit statements

  1. Fred Argy says:

    If the kinds of summit contributions we are getting so far are any indication, the Summit will give the lie to those who believe it is superfluous. Most economic ‘insiders’ have been aware for some time of Gruen’s views on the need to improve information flows and Chapman’s ideas for extending the application of HECS to other areas. But they are now being brought vividly to light and opening up real debate on them – and that is why the Summit offers great hope even if the Rudd Government proves initially timid in taking up the ideas.

  2. swio says:

    Fred Argy,

    I have to sound a note of caution here. The government will only have to respond to the ideas if they are adopted as recommendations by the summit. The ideas we are getting out of this seem great, but getting them accepted by the consensus 100 people in only two days sounds ambitious to me. I am hoping that there will be a feeling of unfinished business by the time its over and that the process will be extended on for a lot longer. This wouldl give the more unknown ideas time to be properly disseminated and understood by all the participants. People will are reluctant to support an idea that they have only just been introduced to.

    But regardless of how the summit formally plays out its already had an enormous effect on people’s attitude to how government policy is made.

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