Federal labor’s think tank launches inclusive prosperity commission

The Chifley Research Centre, the think tank of the Australian Labor Party, is launching a major new economic policy project exploring the threat to Australia’s future economic growth presented by growing inequality – and new policies to respond.

The Inclusive Prosperity Commission, to be launched in Sydney today, will be co-chaired by Hon. Wayne Swan MP (Federal Member for Lilley, former Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer of Australia, author of ‘The Good Fight’, Allen and Unwin, 2014) and Michael Cooney (Executive Director of the Chifley Research Centre, formerly speechwriter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and author of ‘The Gillard Project’, Penguin, May 2015).

The Commission’s membership will be broad with high profile and credentialed policy makers from across the spectrum.  A group of academic, business and economists, along with business and civil society leaders including leaders of trade unions, will join the project as Commissioners in their private capacities.

The commissioners announced today are Cameron Clyne, David Hetherington, Dave Oliver, Peter Whiteford, Rebecca Huntley, Stephen Koukoulas and Tony Nicholson.

Amanda Robbins of Equity Economics will lead the Commission’s staff.  (Biographical details for Commissioners are below.)

The Commission’s task is to develop a new economic policy framework to guide Australia beyond the global financial crisis and the peak of the mining boom.  The Commission will conduct public meetings and hearings, conduct and release research and recommendations, through 2015 and 2016.  The project will culminate in a formal public report, to be released before the Federal election due in August 2016.

“Our central principle is that equality itself is a driving force for economic growth,” said Mr Swan. “Producing wealth in the first place requires equitable growth; otherwise the economy will not grow because demand will be deficient. Strong, stable and sustained growth demands active public policy to spread the gains of wealth creation and limit wealth concentration.”

“The Commission will deliver a high-level economic analysis charting the path to a high pay, high productivity economy,” he added.

Central to the Commission’s work will be policies designed to achieve wealth creation, job creation and economic growth in a globalized economy characterized by profound technological change.

Structural reform and sustained demand are necessary, but not sufficient: public policy must consider genuinely new drivers of growth for the future, to unlock intellectual capital, especially in services and technology for greater economic efficiency and opportunity.

This report will sit alongside new analysis from the IMF, World Bank and influential publications such as Thomas Piketty’s ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ which point to the need for greater government involvement and regulation in many parts of the world, particularly through stabilising labour markets and restoring progressive taxation.

“What’s clear from the global and local economy is that the facts have changed and the Australian debate needs substantial change with them,” said Mr Cooney. “The pre-crisis consensus – all deficits are bad; all privatisation is good; minimal regulation of the labour market and lower wages plus lower taxes for the wealthy are the only path to growth – has demonstrably failed.

“Australia faces major long-term economic challenges which cannot be addressed by a stale conversation about a next ‘wave of reform’ derived from a reheated serve of trade liberalization, deregulation and domestic competition.  We must also reject the dangerous approach of cuts to wages and living standards and greater employment insecurity, which seriously threaten future confidence and demand,” he added.

The Australian commission will build on the trans-Atlantic report of the Center for American Progress (CAP), chaired by ex-US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and British Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls (see: of which Mr Swan was a commissioner.

The CAP report concluded:

“Left to their own devices, unfettered markets and trickle-down economics will lead to increasing levels of inequality, stagnating wages, and a hollowing out of decent, middle-income jobs. This outcome is morally wrong, economically myopic, and at fundamental odds with a democracy in which everyone quite reasonably asks for an equal chance to succeed.”

The Chifley Research Centre is delighted to confirm that Center for American Progress will be a project partner for the Commission.

The Commission is being launched at the ALP’s National Policy Forum in Sydney.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Attachments: Inclusive Prosperity Commissioners biographical details

Media contacts:

Michael Cooney 0417 248 650 mob




The Hon. Wayne Swan MP

Federal Member for Lilley, former Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer of Australia, author of ‘The Good Fight’, Allen and Unwin, 2014.

Michael Cooney

Executive Director of the Chifley Research Centre, formerly speechwriter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and author of ‘The Gillard Project’, Penguin, 2015.


Cameron Clyne

Cameron Clyne is currently Chairman of Camel Partners, a private advisory firm and the Camel Foundation. He is a director of the Australian Rugby Union, the University of Sydney Rugby Club Foundation, the University of Western Sydney Foundation, the Australian American Leadership Dialogue, a Patron of the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue and an Adjunct Professor at the UWS Business School.

Cameron was Group Chief Executive Officer of National Australia Bank (NAB) from January 2009 until August 2014. He was also Chairman of Clydesdale Bank in the United Kingdom and a Director of the Bank of New Zealand. NAB employs 42,000 people in 12 countries providing financial services to retail, business and institutional customers. Prior to becoming Group CEO he was CEO and Managing Director of the Bank of New Zealand from 2007 to 2008. BNZ is the NAB’s New Zealand operation. He joined NAB in 2004 as Group Executive Customer Solutions.

Prior to NAB Cameron was a Partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC). His last role at PwC was leading the financial services consulting practice across Asia. He worked for PwC in their Sydney, Melbourne, San Francisco and New York offices.


Dave Oliver

Dave Oliver is the Secretary of the ACTU. He was elected at the 2012 Congress, following the retirement of Jeff Lawrence.

After leaving school in 1977, Dave began his working life as 15 year old apprentice at JR Simpson Engineering in Botany, NSW. On completing his trade as a fitter, Dave went to work for the Sydney lift company, Johns Perry Lifts (later Boral Lifts). He first became a union site delegate while working on the construction of the elevator in the new NSW Industrial Relations Commission building at 80 William St, Sydney.


After 10 years in the industry, and as a union activist with a passion for safety and asbestos issues, Dave became an organiser with the AMWU in 1988. As a NSW Branch official, Dave led campaigns to protect workers’ entitlements from company collapses, before moving to Victoria as the Assistant National Secretary and then becoming Victorian Branch Secretary in 2002.

Dave is married with four children and lives in Melbourne. He is a member of St Kilda Football Club and in his spare time likes to escape on his touring motorbike.


Tony Nicholson

Tony Nicholson has dedicated over 30 years to improving conditions of those living on or close to the edges of society.

A feature of his work has been his ability to collaborate with colleague social justice organisations, governments and businesses to achieve reform in public policy and service delivery to the benefit of disadvantaged Australians.

Tony is currently Executive Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne.  He brings to the task of leadership at the Brotherhood a strong record of service development and innovation, research and policy analysis and compelling advocacy on behalf of those disadvantaged in our community.


Peter Whiteford

Peter Whiteford is a Professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy at The Australian National University and Director of the Social Policy Institute.  He previously worked at the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. Between 2000 and 2008 he was a Principal Administrator in the Directorate of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. His work at the OECD encompassed pension and welfare policies in OECD countries, Eastern Europe and China. He also worked on child poverty, family assistance policies, welfare reform, and inequality and redistribution. He has published extensively on various aspects of the Australian and system of income support.

In July 2008, he was appointed by the Australian government to the Reference Group for the Harmer Review of the Australian pension system. He was an invited keynote speaker at the Melbourne Institute-Australia’s Future Tax and Transfer Policy Conference held in June 2009 as part of the Henry Review of Australia’s Future Tax System, and he participated in the Australian Government Tax Forum held in Canberra in October 2011.


Rebecca Huntley

Dr Rebecca Huntley is a researcher and author. She is currently senior editor and director of insights with the Mamamia Women’s Network. She is one of Australia’s foremost commentators on social and consumer trends. Rebecca has a law degree, an honours degree in film studies and a PhD in gender studies.

She is the immediate past Executive Director of The Mind & Mood Report.

She is the author of numerous books, including a memoir The Italian Girl. She is a feature writer for Australian Vogue and a columnist for BRW. She appears regularly on television, includingQ&A, The 7:30 Report and Paul Murray Live, discussing social trends.

In 2013 she appeared at TEDX Sydney. She is a regular panellist at The Festival of Dangerous Ideas and other ideas and writers festivals around the country. She is on the board of the Dusseldorp Skills Forum. Rebecca has a passionate interest in food. Her most recent book is Does Cooking Matter? (Penguin 2014).


David Hetherington

David Hetherington is the founding Executive Director of Per Capita. He has previously worked at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London and for L.E.K. Consulting in Sydney, Munich and Auckland. He has written over 100 major reports, book chapters and opinion pieces on a wide range of economic and social policy issues, including fiscal policy, market design, social innovation, employment, education and training, disability, housing, and climate change.

David has been an expert witness to Parliamentary Committees and frequently speaks at Australian and international conferences, including the Banff Forum and the Progressive Governance Summit. His articles have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the Australian Financial Review, the Guardian, and The Australian, and he is a columnist for Policy Network’s State of the Left. He was a longstanding contributor to Radio National’s Life Matters and is a regular panellist on The Drum on ABC TV.

David holds a BA with First Class Honours from UNSW and an MPA with Distinction from the London School of Economics where he won the George W. Jones Prize for Academic Achievement.


Stephen Koukoulas

Stephen Koukoulas has a rare and specialised professional experience over more than 25 years as an economist in government, as Global Head of economic and market research, a Chief Economist for two major banks and as economic advisor to the Prime Minister.


Stephen is currently Managing Director of Market Economics Pty Ltd, a firm he recently established in response to the growing need for independent and tailored macroeconomic analysis for business clients needing to convert economic data into financial market and policy risks. His work provides clients with unique insights into the macroeconomic policy debate.

Between September 2010 and July 2011, Stephen was Senior Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard MP having moved there from a senior role in the Commonwealth Treasury. Before that, Stephen spent three years in London as the Global Head of research and strategy for TD Securities.

Stephen has also spent 10 years as a Senior Economist and Chief Economist of Citibank Australia and Chief Strategist at TD Securities in Sydney. Between 1999 and 2001 he was The Australian Financial Review’s Economics Analyst.

Stephen is a graduate of the ANU following which he gained an unique insight into the workings of government as an economist in the Commonwealth Treasury during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In Treasury, Stephen worked in areas covering economic forecasting, monetary policy analysis, current economic conditions and the international economy.

Stephen’s experience is clearly very wide with his understanding of political economy, policy and financial market issues. These are important in getting insights into the economic policy and makes his analysis and services highly sought after.


Amanda Robbins of Equity Economics will lead the Commission’s staff.

Amanda has extensive expertise in economic policy having worked as policy adviser for over 12 years in both government and the not-for-profit sector domestically and internationally.

Amanda has expertise in public financial management, health and education policy, governance and development economics.

Amanda most recently worked as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Australian Federal Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister and has over 9 years experience with the Federal Treasury.

Her experience internationally includes as Senior Adviser in the Treasury of Papua New Guinea from 2006 to 2008 and more recently in New York advising World Vision.

Amanda is also a qualified lawyer admitted to practice in NSW.

About Michael Cooney

Michael Cooney

Michael is a former Executive Director of the Chifley Research Centre. He was previously Speechwriter to Prime Minister the Hon Julia Gillard MP, Senior Adviser at the HR Coombs Policy Forum, Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, and was Principal Policy Advisor to Federal Labor Leaders Kim Beazley and Mark Latham.

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