Late last year, the ABC ran a four-part series called Keating on our former prime minister, which included extensive interviews with Paul Keating.
The show contained some video clips of animated exchanges between Keating and then-opposition leader John Hewson.
As Keating made the famous “I’m going to do you slowly” speech, his front bench came alive with great animation and hilarity. It made me realise we haven’t seen such spontaneous good humour and sustained colourful exchanges for some time.
Former prime ministers Hawke, Keating and Howard were all effective parliamentary performers, but also great political and nation-building strategists, each in their own way.
A clear vision
In short, Australia is now crying out for an inspiring political and economic vision, rather than new daily exhortations about the intricate nuances of bean counting mushed together with finger pointing. Thank God we have done better in the cricket, as we recovered from 2013 during our recent summer.
A clear and credible vision is very important for those of us managing the workplace.
In Elliott Jacques’ famous book, Requisite Organization, he stated that good, engaging workplaces demonstrate three things: we and our co-workers know what our jobs are, how that fits with others in our group, and what our business or organisation is trying to achieve. In this last context, a national economic vision for business is critical.
We don’t yet have one from either mainstream political party. But our nation’s corporate leaders at the Business Council of Australia (BCA) have done us a great service by putting one together that should attract bipartisan support.
In its Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity, the BCA sets out a simple set of objectives and actions that would dramatically improve business and government life.
Over the next six years, the BCA advises we should restore trust and confidence by stabilising our fiscal position (without dramatically alarmist pessimistic assumptions, Joe Hockey), improve skills, literacy and numeracy, upgrade critical infrastructure, and undertake an extensive program of taxation and regulatory reforms.
Action in these areas would lift productivity, economic flexibility and diversity, incomes per capita, our global competitiveness, and encourage a healthier and more livable Australia. The BCA sets simple KPIs:
- 95% of year nine students meet acceptable numeracy and literacy standards.
- 90% of students complete year 12.
- 60% have tertiary qualifications.
- GDP grows at an average of 2.75%pa for the next 20 years, and GDP per capita goes from $60k to $80k in the same period.
- Being in the top five nations for global competitiveness.
Easy to understand, isn’t it? Yes, they’re BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), but they’re worth shooting for.
Good strategy starts with deciding where you want to get to, then working back towards today and seeing what needs to change. If you believe business should be able to respond to competition quickly and there should be no barriers to consumers participating in the digital economy, it’s possible to see our current barriers and where incentives are needed.
The BCA recommendations include proposals to lift the global benchmarking of our education systems, raise the entry requirements and professional development standards for teachers, reduce to the number of data sets used by our tertiary education system.
So, there is much to be done to modernise Australia’s workplaces within the economy overall. It’s not hard but it requires political courage, the likes of which we haven’t seen for seven years. Here’s hoping a good rest over the summer will produce that courage, and actions to match. Our national cricket team has shown us how quickly and beneficially you can reform yourself with the right focus and willpower.