Turnbull Speech: Open Markets, Open Minds And An Open Society

Malcolm Turnbull has delivered a speech on the economy in which he sounds a warning about Australia’s economic future.

Malcolm TurnbullThe Opposition’s shadow minister for Communications said of the changing world environment: “The real story is much more than China, or indeed Asia. At the centre of the great economic changes in the world today is an accelerating convergence triggered by trade liberalization and supercharged by the Internet. As people in developing countries acquire more skills at first world standards and as the Internet makes historically non-traded sectors thoroughly trade exposed, there are grave risks as well as new opportunities for high wage, developed economies like Australia.”

Turnbull called for inefficient and uncompetitive industries to adapt or die. He warned against government attempting to pick winners. “Now change is often very unsettling – but we need to remind ourselves and our fellow countrymen that just as firms which cannot change to new circumstances will decline, and sometimes close, the same is true for national economies.”

The speech also deals with education, broadband and “harmonious diversity”.

Text of Malcolm Turnbull’s ANU speech: Open Markets, Open Minds and an Open Society (or why we should be more like Stephanie Gilmore and less like King Canute)

It’s an honour to be here at the ANU for the launch of Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies, the new flagship journal of the Crawford School of Public Policy.

Under the editorial leadership of Tom Kompas, Director of the Crawford School, APPS will focus on public policy research from – and about – Australia, Asia and the Pacific, with the first edition out at the start of 2014.

As the newspaper industry’s travails remind us, paper and ink are yesterday’s story, and I note with approval that Tom and his team have future-proofed APPS – it will be published electronically and free of charge, thanks in part to support from AusAID.

Public policy is ultimately the most pragmatic and applied of disciplines. But it must also be founded in rigorous thinking about economic and social behavior – big ideas about the interrelationships that have to be taken into account in successfully leading social and political change.

Rigorous empirical research based on sound precepts – studies of outcomes across jurisdictions, of what worked, what didn’t, and which unanticipated consequences arose – are the most valuable analysis and data available to policymakers considering a problem. And while we are often, but not often enough, aware of what has been tried in the UK, US or New Zealand, we typically know less about what’s been tried elsewhere, particularly beyond the OECD. [Read more…]

Abbott Says Broadband Network Should Go

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has repeated his call for the government to abandon the National Broadband Network and concentrate on flood reconstruction.

Speaking at a press conference today, Abbott said the NBN “is a luxury that Australia cannot now afford. The one thing you don’t do is re-do your bathroom when the roof has just been blown off and that’s the situation that we find ourselves in right now.”

  • Listen to Abbott’s press conference in full – 7m.

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  • Listen to Abbott’s NBN bathroom analogy.

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This is the transcript of Tony Abbott’s press conference.


As the flood waters recede, it’s clear that the damages bill is going to be enormous, perhaps even gargantuan, as Sir Rod Eddington suggested this morning. Certainly it will run to many, many billions of dollars. Now, the money just has to be spent because the people of Queensland have to be resupplied with the roads, the railroads and the bridges on which modern living absolutely depends. But the damages bill will have to be met, the money will have to be found. It should not be found via a new tax. The people of Queensland have suffered enough, they shouldn’t have to suffer higher taxes as well. It should be found through re-prioritising government expenditure.

It’s time for the Government to stop spending on unnecessary projects so that it can start spending on unavoidable projects such as the reconstruction that will be needed in Queensland and perhaps in Victoria as well. It can start with the National Broadband Network. The National Broadband Network is a luxury that Australia cannot now afford. The one thing you don’t do is re-do your bathroom when the roof has just been blown off and that’s the situation that we find ourselves in right now.

While I’m on the subject of the National Broadband Network, not only is it the most expensive government infrastructure project in Australia’s history but it’s also the most secretive government project in Australia’s history. Not only is there no cost-benefit analysis, not only is it being exempted from competition laws, not only is it being exempted from public works committee scrutiny, we learn today that it’s also being exempted from freedom of information laws. This really is a project that doesn’t stack up and it shouldn’t go ahead. It particularly shouldn’t be going ahead at a time like this.


Prime Minister Gillard announced a fund today for corporations to donate towards the flood victims. Can I just get your thoughts on that?


Look, I think it’s been really good the way corporate Australia has responded to the floods and I think that there’s a lot of expertise in corporate Australia that governments at all levels could well draw on. I think it’s important for governments at all levels to draw on relevant business expertise and I’m pleased that the Gillard Government, in this instance, looks like doing so.


Do you think corporations need to go beyond financially donating towards the flood relief and actually, I don’t know, donate items or…?


I think that probably the two most important sectors of corporate Australia, as we recover from the floods, are going to be the insurers and the bankers and I think it’s very important that our insurers and our bankers respond intelligently, constructively and cooperatively because there are an enormous number of businesses and households that are going to need support from those sectors and I hope they get it.


Mr Abbott, apart from the NBN what other projects should the Government either delay or cancel altogether?


Plainly this is a Government which has a very poor record when it comes to spending money effectively. I think that any money that’s still to be spent under the Government’s stimulus package should certainly be redirected. I think there are a range of election commitments such as ‘Cash for Clunkers’ that are just begging to be scrapped. I think that there are a whole range of unnecessary spending programmes that the Government needs to look at again.

Let’s face it, no less a figure than Sir Rod Eddington himself this morning said that the Government was going to have to focus on the urgent, unavoidable and necessary repair work, not on other projects which at a time like this look like luxuries.


The National Broadband Network’s not included in the Budget so how is it possible to cancel that?


Because it’s going to involve some $50 billion plus of government spending and the point I make is that when you’ve got an absolutely urgent and unavoidable spending commitment, you don’t go ahead with unnecessary and avoidable spending commitments and that’s what the NBN is.


How would you like to see the insurance industry improve their [inaudible]?


Well, the point I’ve been making is that insurers should respond intelligently and constructively to this. They shouldn’t respond legalistically. They shouldn’t respond with the kind of nitpicking which you sometimes get. We don’t want the insurers looking at the fine print and suddenly saying that ‘oh, oops, those premiums that you’ve been paying out for years aren’t going to cover you in this particular instance’.


The British and Australian foreign and defence ministers are meeting today. The British Government has set out a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Is it time Australia did the same?


I’m pleased that the AUKMIN talks are going ahead. I think this was one of the really significant innovations of the Howard and Blair Governments to commence these annual high level ministerial talks between Australia and Britain. Britain is our oldest ally. Along with the United States, it’s our greatest ally and it’s very important that we keep all our alliance relationships in very good shape. So, I’m pleased that they’re going ahead and I’m confident that we’ll have much to exchange with the British when it comes to our shared experience in Afghanistan.


Would you like to see a timetable for withdrawal?


Well, I’ve said that it’s important for Australian troops to stay in Afghanistan until the job is done and I’m certainly not in the business of putting a limit on that. I note that the Prime Minister talked about a decade when she gave her parliamentary statement just a few months ago. The important thing is to win, the important thing is to achieve our national and international objectives in Afghanistan. That’s what Australian troops are there to do and I want to say that they are doing an absolutely magnificent job. Thanks.

NBN Business Case Released

The NBN Business Case report has been released by the federal government.

Pressure for release of the National Broadband Network business case has been mounting for some time.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, accompanied by Wayne Swan, Senator Conroy, Senator Wong, and the Chairman of NBNCo, Mike Quigley, held a press conference in Canberra today to release the report. [Read more…]

Rudd Launches Broadband Policy; Abandons Opposition To Telstra Sale

The Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, has announced an election policy which commits the ALP to investing up to $4.7 billion in partnership with the private sector to build a broadband service which will cover 98 per cent of the population and deliver speeds forty times faster than currently available.

Describing the policy as a contribution to “nation building for the future”, Rudd said a commitment to broadband infrastructure was on a par with the commitment to railway construction in the nineteenth century.

Rudd said the policy would be funded with $2 billion from the existing communications fund with the remainder to be taken from the Future Fund’s 17 per cent share of Telstra. This proposal led to a savage response from the Treasurer, Peter Costello, in Question Time.

The Shadow Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, said the ALP now accepted that it had lost the fight to retain Telstra in public ownership and is now “absolutely committed to building the broadband network of the future”. [Read more…]