A need for courageous reform

John Daley

Is the golden age of policy reform over?

According to Melbourne Law School alumnus and Grattan Institute CEO John Daley, it is.

Speaking at the May Alumni Seminar this morning, Mr Daley said despite this lack of reform, courageous policy is still possible.

"The era of courageous reform is not dead," he said.

"If you change the hearts and minds of the public, you will change the hearts and minds of politicians."

Mr Daley compared the "golden age" of the 1980s - when Australia saw vast reform in foreign banking, tariffs, privatisation and tax, among other areas – with the past decade, referencing the mining boom in particular.

He said whilst considerable reform was there in the past, it made for many losers.

"Australia is one of the best managers of adversity the world has seen, and the worst of prosperity," he said.

However, Mr Daley believes that during the most recent mining boom, the macro economy was managed well, with prosperity well-spread.

This boom, however, is coming to an end.

The think tank chief also discussed "new wars" which need to be fought, particularly reform in superannuation costs, wasted money in the pharmaceutical industry, oligopolies, and government services.

Adding to this, Mr Daley said tax, pension and welfare reform were also considerable issues.

"Current politics have not been wildly impressive, and it is because of a combination of bad policy and bad politics," he said.

Mr Daley believed analysis of policy reform had fallen down in recent years, contributing to the slow process of reform.

"I would be a lot more comfortable if more analysis was coming out of think tanks and government departments," he said.

"Trying to do courageous reform without that analysis behind you, you will come a cropper."

By Andy Walsh.