Australia has been warned it risks drifting into the future if it fails to respond to challenges in a fast-changing world
Australia is at a crossroads. Drift towards a future of slow decline economically and socially or, if action is taken now to address our most important challenges, create a future of greater prosperity for all, globally competitive industries and a sustainable environment.
That is the conclusion of a major report bringing together the thinking of more than 50 leaders in business, academia, NGOs and the community sector, working with the CSIRO to model alternative futures for Australia. The report is described as a clarion call for the nation.
The Australian National Outlook 2019, two years in the making, aims to help kickstart a national conversation about where Australia is heading, says its co-chair, Dr Ken Henry, the chairman of the National Australia Bank and former secretary of the Treasury department.
Participants met as a group with the nations leading science agency, the CSIRO, to identify the most critical long-term challenges facing Australia and what needed to change. They included senior leaders from Shell Australia, the Red Cross, McKinsey & Company, Australia Post, PwC, the Cochlear company, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, the Grattan Institute, major universities, the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and UnitingCare Australia.
Individuals included the former New South Wales premier Nick Greiner, former chairman of the Australian competition and consumer commission Allan Fels and co-chair of the report, the CSIROs chairman, David Thodey.
The report concludes that while Australia has enjoyed almost three decades of economic growth, with enviable social cohesion and strong institutions, it risks drifting into the future if it fails to respond to challenges in a fast-changing world. Those identified are the rise of Asia, rapid technological change, climate change and the environment, changing demographics, declining trust in institutions and business and strains on social cohesion.
To deal with them and reach its potential by 2060, Australia must make key shifts in five areas: an industrial shift, an urban shift, an energy shift, a land shift and a culture shift.
The director of CSIRO Futures, James Deverell, led the project and said the sense of urgency came from the participants, who gathered for eight workshops, beginning with around 100 priorities for Australia before identifying the most crucial.
There was this strong sense that we need to take action now, Deverell said. The group sees this as a clarion call, a call to arms for action.