That’s the title of the FH Gruen lecture I’ll be presenting at ANU on Tuesday 4 October.
I’ll be talking first about the end of the era of reform that began in the early 1980s, and then about the information economy and a policy agenda for the 21st century.
My starting point, that the era of reform* in Australia is over, is shared by Paul Kelly of the Oz, the most prominent advocate and chronicler of the case for reform. Of course Kelly sees the end of reform as cause for mourning rather than celebration.
Australia is a country chained to the past, stubborn in its nostalgic mindset and entrenched in an egalitarian rigidity that throttles any transition to a more successful economy and society
But it’s Kelly who is engaging in nostalgia here. The reforms of the 1980s were designed to address the problems of a 20th century industrial economy. Some were sensible, others weren’t, but either way they are of little relevance today, and will be even less relevant in the future.
* Kelly takes the term “reform” to be self-explanatory. To spell it out, reform refers to a policy agenda based on the ideas of free trade, privatisation and reductions in the scale and scope of government activity.