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A new deal launches to reshape an economy that’s fair for all

28 September 2020 at 5:32 pm
Maggie Coggan
“What we are calling for requires big change, not just big spending,” project researcher says 

Maggie Coggan | 28 September 2020 at 5:32 pm


A new deal launches to reshape an economy that’s fair for all
28 September 2020 at 5:32 pm

“What we are calling for requires big change, not just big spending,” project researcher says 

An unlikely alliance of community, union, and academic groups are pitching a shake-up of the economy, challenging the government to look beyond big spending. 

Those behind the economic plan, detailed in a report published on Monday ahead of next week’s federal budget, suggest while stimulus spending is important, not enough thought has been put into how to address critical issues the country is currently facing. 

The plan is the outcome of a collaboration between the University of Sydney’s Policy Lab and partners including United Workers Union, Victoria Trades Hall, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Climate Justice Union.  

It takes inspiration from the global Green New Deal to address the interconnected health, economic, race and climate crises revealed by COVID-19. 

Dr Gareth Bryant, the project economist, said the pandemic was an opportunity to “do a different kind of budget”. 

“What we are calling for requires big change, not just big spending,” Bryant said.  

“Each of our partner organisations are convinced that the traditional economic approach will only benefit those who have been least affected by the COVID-19 crisis.” 

The coalition propose five ways by which to judge the coming budget: 

  • Is investment targeted towards those who need it most, to secure long-term economic resilience?
  • Do the plans help Australia tackle long-term inequalities – to address the problems that COVID-19 exposed and exacerbated?
  • Have we abandoned a “business as usual” mindset and begun to offer a long-term vision that embraces First Nations sovereignty, care, climate, work, justice, and citizenship?
  • Are we moving towards greater community involvement in decision-making – including input from those with lived experience of relevant issues?
  • Are there plans for far-reaching collaboration between unions and businesses, as well as community groups and local authorities?

Striving for institutional change 

Project lead Dr Amanda Tattersall told Pro Bono News that the crisis had highlighted the need for institutions to be redesigned to create outcomes that money alone could not create. 

“If you use aged care as an example, just giving billions more dollars to the industry without changing how it actually works to serve older Australians is not going to fix this,” Tattersall said. 

“The whole institution needs to become more relational and participatory and involve older people and their families in the provision of care.” 

She said that in the past few months we have seen various policies rushed through to deal with the crisis that haven’t taken vulnerable people into consideration  – and that had to change. 

“We need to have more versatile policies that consider how the state interacts with people,” she said. 

The climate must come first 

A key focus of the plan is the need to take climate change seriously when reshaping the economy. 

The report outlines how action on climate change could be coupled with job creation, and details a community-led plan to achieve 700 per cent increase in renewables – 700 gigawatts of wind and solar energy, compared to our current production of around 10 gigawatts. 

“This solution would not only create clean energy but generate new jobs in renewables and in energy intensive Australian manufacturing, like aluminium,” the report said. 

Matt Rose, the Australian Conservation Foundation economy and democracy program manager, said that pushing forward bold plans for renewables would help transform existing industries to secure their future.  

“Bold plans for renewables will help transform many existing industries and secure their future, and a clean energy export industry will create new jobs and opportunities across the country,” Rose said. 

An unusual alliance to produce new ideas 

Tattersall said she hoped that uniting such an “unusual alliance” of people that might normally not see eye to eye would mean creating new ideas. 

“When you have the usual suspects come together, you produce the same results,” she said.  

“We’re in an unusual situation, a novel situation, and that requires new thinking and compromise and negotiation across interests. 

“We don’t normally have businesses talking to unions, talking to climate groups, talking to community groups, there’s just normally not the space.” 

She said the coalition would move at a slower pace to allow for a better understanding to build between groups, and so they could engage with and involve the communities who would be affected by these policy changes.  

The coalition is now in the process of expanding its network to include more First Nations, regional and business voices, with a plan for activity set to be released in 2021. 

See a full copy of the plan here. 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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