24 February 2014

Opening remarks, Council of Councils fifth regional conference, How to Revitalise the G20: A View from the Australian Chair, Lowy Institute Sydney


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Thanks very much Michael and thank you Richard for making the trip out and bringing this very august group together. And it’s good to see some ex-colleagues like Michael L’Estrange and Peter Varghes and of course Jim Spigelman.

But look, it is good to be here the weekend after the G20 summit. It is good to be at the Council of Councils meeting so quickly after to reflect on what happened. I actually have come here, to some extent, in I suppose a spirit of intellectual curiosity, if I can put it like that, because one of the biggest benefits that I had in the last few months in the lead up to the G20, was reading some of the material that’s been put out under the rhetoric of Lowy and G20 and the role of my old friend Mike Callaghan has played in bringing that stuff together, has been I think really interesting and energising. Some of it was fed into what was given to the Prime Minister for his speech at Davos. But I think it’s important that the private sector, the think tanks, everybody who has a particular stake in this sort of process, have their say and that we open the process so that it is a bit more transparent and more direct going forward.

What struck me about the weekend, first of all it was good that it was boring, in the sense that there was a large measure of agreement around the issues that needed to be pursued and that was good. And there seemed to be agreement that the language, in large part, should shift from debates around austerity and all the rest of it, to taking about how do we put these in a framework. I think that is quite positive, because that then gave the context in which to talk about how potential policy actions can help to bring about the aspirations we are now putting around growth.

The fact that there’s a debate around the target, a growth target was very interesting. I have a theory about the growth target which I will come back to in a minute. My point about that is, it was good that people were signing off on the idea that we are going to lift growth above business as usual, above what