By Denis Bright
Jim Chalmers delivered an astute clarification of aspects of his concepts of Values-Based Capitalism and Co-Investment for the rebuilding of the Australian economy at a time of volatility in financial markets (7.30 Report 31 January 2023).
In juxtaposition, The Australian and several mainstream media agencies preferred vilification of Jim Chalmers above fair but critical reporting.
Jim Chalmer’s comments could have smothered as just another interpretation of future directions for the Australian economy.
Sarah Ferguson’s interactions may not have occurred without the dramas caused by over-reaction to a harmless essay.
Sarah Ferguson’s interviewing style on the 7.30 Report was an exemplar of even-handed critical journalism. Her enthusiasm and knowledge of the concept of Values-Based Capitalism added vitality to a potentially boring topic. The text of the interview is now on Jim Chalmer’s media site to supplement the video available from the 7.30 Report site. Sarah Ferguson commenced her interview with an open-ended question:
Sarah Ferguson: What is values‑based capitalism that you’re writing about in this essay and how is it different to what we have now?
Jim Chalmers in reply emphasized that his economic framework might strengthen our democracy and all participants in the economy as there could be no losers from a Win-Win set of priorities. Neoconservative editorial departments would have liked more polemics in the Treasurer’s responses.
His replies were a confirmation of the very conventional economic values which the editorial writers were actually promoting.
The key add-on from Jim Chalmers was about the negative consequences of delivering more of the same policy mix which might have been appropriate during the resources boom prior to the GFC:
Jim Chalmers: My essay is all about how we strengthen our economy and strengthen our institutions in a way that strengthens our society and strengthens our democracy. And it differs from the approach taken over the last decade or so because I think for the best part of a decade we’ve been pretending as a country that we have to choose between our economic objectives and our social objectives and in the process, we haven’t done a great job of satisfying either set of objectives. And so what this tries to do is to say that we would be much better off if we had the public sector and the private sector working together in the service of our national economic goals in a way that modernises our economy and modernises our institutions and strengthens our democracy, so that we can rebuild faith that our approach to the economy brings with it a whole range of other benefits too.
Jim Chalmer’s essay covered the possibilities of co-investment between government and the corporate sector in the delivery of that essential change agenda which brought the Albanese Government to office after a decade of neoliberal policies after 2013 followed by a legitimate and bipartisan commitment to deficit spending and government intervention during the COVID-19 crisis.
This commitment to sustainable prosperity through Co-Investment is endorsed by Italian economist Mariana Mazzucato who is well known for her inspirational research and teaching at universities in the US, Britain and Australia at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).
Across the road from UTS, Central Place Sydney is a perfect example of what has already been achieved in urban renewal from a former industrial site with Win-Win commitments through partnerships between successive NSW Governments and the corporate sector which promotes architectural innovation, energy sustainability in design, improved housing supply and employment growth.
Just image how much could be achieved after Premier Chris Minns and his Treasurer Daniel Mookhey MLC offer a greater commitment to affordable housing in future projects on the Outer Metro Corridors of Sydney and the Regions (Central Place Sydney):
Central Place Sydney is a joint venture between two of Australia’s leading property groups, Frasers Property Australia and Dexus, and will be Sydney’s most significant CBD development in over a decade.
Central Place Sydney will be at the heart of the NSW Government-backed Tech Central innovation district and will define the future of work and workplaces, as well as set the precedent for healthy building technology. The development will position Tech Central as a key driver of innovation and growth in the Asia Pacific region and significantly contribute to large-scale urban change in Sydney.
When completed, Central Place Sydney will become a vibrant gateway to the southern end of Sydney CBD. With a diverse retail and dining offering, public art and green spaces, improved pedestrian amenity and connectivity to Central Station, Central Place Sydney will be an exciting destination for the people of Sydney to enjoy.
Commentators on the Sky News network have dismissed the value of Jim Chalmer’s reflective essay.
Substituting negativity for critical reporting has only widened attention to Jim Chalmer’s essay criticism only widened the outreach of the essay. Talented political leaders of all persuasions have taken up big picture issues to promote community discussion and involvement in policy development. The Monthly essay is simply part of this well-established routine of floating fresh ideas.
Lampooning the value of critical discussion has anti-democratic characteristics.
Should political discussion regress to an inner circle of policy elites while most of society watches hours of latest releases from the streaming channels largely under the control of Anglo-American corporate giants?
Outer Metro federal electorates like Rankin which has been represented by Jim Chalmers since 2013 are a challenge to leaders with a change agenda. While the LNP candidate in 2022 lost 2.34 percent of the primary vote for the Coalition over the 2016 result, the LNP vote was built up by strong preference flows against Labor from One Nation and the UAP.
Jim Chalmer’s own electorate of Rankin in Brisbane and Logan City’s Outer Metro South is not typical of many other Queensland federal electorates.
In Queensland, Labor holds just five federal seats out of thirty and sometimes struggles to gain two of the six senate spots available at each half-senate election.
The Monthly essay is surely an attempt to develop a greater affinity between voters in potential Labor heartlands and political insiders who frame policy drafts behind the scenes.
Describing the essay as a drift towards a quasi-command economy was blown away in Jim Chalmer’s replies.
Proof that the old ways private sector capital investment was not working too well in the recent decade of LNP rule came with the publication of private sector capital expenditure data for the September Quarter of 2022. The next edition for the December Quarter is due on 23 February 2023:
Annual Private Sector Australian Capital Expenditure
- Total new capital expenditure fell by 0.6%
- Buildings and structures rose by 0.5%
- Equipment, plant and machinery fell by 1.6%
- Estimate 4 for 2022-23 is $155.7b. This is 5.6% higher than Estimate 3 for 2022-23
There are green shoots of improvement in 2022-23 during to flow-on effects of improved trade with Asian countries which are always under threat from deteriorating strategic concerns as the new Cold War intensifies.
The mechanisms for responsible co-investment will need to be tested by the vast resources available to a majority government.
Co-investment strategies will take time to become fully accepted. Even Robert Menzies was prepared to own the need for government intervention which included a continuation of Snowy Mountains Hydro, Rail Standardization and construction of the Ord River Dams and a more regulated banking system and financial system. Post-war recovery would not have occurred so smoothly without responsible levels of government intervention.
The extension of responsible government intervention to the demands of Outback Australia is an urgent necessity on the potential transport corridors to the Northern port of Darwin with its proximity to our Asian trading partners.
Jim Chalmers is looking for alternatives to that boring debate about excessive taxation burdens which has dominated Australian politics for generations. Ironically, it the Anglo-American multinational companies which feature most prominently on the ATO’s latest tax avoidance list (ABC News 2 November 2022).
May the change agenda of The Messiah from Marsden flourish or the Australian economy.
Denis Bright is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback by using the Reply button on The AIMN site is always most appreciated. It can liven up discussion. I appreciate your little intrusions with comments and from other insiders at The AIMN. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Reply button.
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