Friday, November 03, 2006

Making the boom pay

I have been at the ‘Making the Boom Pay, Securing the Next Generation of Prosperity’, The Economic and Social Outlook Conference organized by the Melbourne Institute and The Australian newspaper. This is an agenda-setting conference rather than a meeting that presents detailed or theoretical economic research. The standard of the contributions varied but was generally very good. I will urge my fellow economists to take a more active interest in these meetings. They were additionally an excellent resource for postgraduate students seeking a research or thesis topic.

Access Economics’, Chris Richardson, set the scene with a valuable paper ‘Making the boom pay’ outlining the nature of the current boom – it is only a copy of his slides but valuable nonetheless. I particularly liked Secretary of The Treasury, Ken Henry’s Speech (available in full here) which deals with the same theme. Henry is a compassionate hard-head – I was very impressed. All the available papers (including mine) are here.

Kim Beazley and Tony Abbott both gave speeches which they read from notes (again, here). Abbot’s speech showed his intelligent, conservatism applied to the health area while Beazley was much more lively, interesting and thoughtful (rather than clichéd) during the question time that followed his presentation. The Bomber showed he is a skilled politician and cracked a few good jokes!

Julia Gillard impressed me greatly with a speech on health reform that emphasized a case for preventative care that I strongly agree with (unfortunately not available). I was also very impressed with journalist Paul Kelly’s remarks (unavailable but presumably forthcoming in The Australian soon).

I am still digesting the output of this Conference but the following things stuck in my head. Is the Government’s mix of expansionary fiscal policy and increasingly tight monetary policy sensible? Should we go on a consumption spree when we know that (if not when) the boom will end? When will the boom end and how might it end – this is equivalent to asking when will the Chinese expansion take a dive? But the main impression was just the drama of the ‘boom’ event – it has proved already to be a turning point in the development of contemporary Australia.

I counted only one academic based in the University of Melbourne, Department of Economics at this conference. I asked someone about this and the respondent replied that Department members were not interested in economies! This was a sarcastic response but I suspect there is some truth in it - the Department does have a theoretical orientation. I was the only person from my own Department so I should be careful not to be critical. But it does seem unfortunate to me that economists generally don’t take the opportunity to interact with policy-makers and journalists. It will improve our focus on what are the keys issues and provides a mine of researchable topics.


rabee said...

Looks like a good sequence of papers.

Just curios, why is it that the only academic economists giving talks were heads of departments?

Was the conference serious about ideas?

hc said...

I'll let that one go through to the keeper. Rabee for HOS.

Kate said...

Looks like a good line up of speakers.
Julia Gillard's speech is available here:

derrida derider said...

Oh come on, Harry, most of the economists at Melbourne Uni identified themselves as affiliated with the MI rather than the faculty.

But yeah, it was a good if uneven conference. I actually kept an eye out but didn't manage to run into you. My professional interests meant I had to attend different concurrent streams to you (sorry I missed your talk in the Urban Congestion session).

I've seen several Ken Henry talks now and they are always very good - certainly more worthwhile than any of his predecessors' (I once fell asleep in a Bernie Fraser talk ...).

hc said...

DD, The comment about non-attendance by regular faculty stands. In fact it was made to me by one of the faculty with MI. The comment waws that if the MI didn't exist this sort of conference would not exist. BTW I wasn't being that critical - I just think its sad when such valuable opportunities are missed.