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Sometime, somewhere we will find leaders interested in doing a better job

In the meantime, however, our electricity industry is finding it hard to know what to do because the Morrison government won’t commit itself to a clear plan on how we’ll make the transition to all-renewable power.

Worse, our abundance of sun and wind relative to most other countries makes us well placed to become a world renewables superpower – exporting “clean” energy-intensive manufactures, maybe even energy itself – if we act quickly.

Right now, however, our need to choose between being a loser from the old world or a winner in the new world is sitting in the too-hard basket.

Moving to less strategic issues, Danielle Wood, chief executive of the Grattan Institute, gives a high priority to lowering barriers to workforce participation by women, by making childcare more affordable and improving paid parental leave.

We’ve long seen the benefits of free education in public schools. Making “early childhood education and care” free would not merely make life easier for young families, it would get more of our kids off to a better start in the education system and allow women to more fully exploit the material benefits of their extensive education, not just to their benefit but the benefit of all of us.

Our abundance of sun and wind relative to most other countries makes us well placed to become a world renewables superpower if we act quickly.

Our abundance of sun and wind relative to most other countries makes us well placed to become a world renewables superpower if we act quickly.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

The benefits of getting an education greatly exceed getting a better paid job – education broadens the mind, don’t you know – but it makes no sense for girls, their families and the taxpayer to put so much effort and money into gaining a better education, then make it so hard for them to do well in the workforce when they have kids.

One factor that’s widening the gap between rich and poor in the advanced economies is years of “skill-biased” technological change, which is increasing the wages of highly skilled workers while doing little to increase the wages of unskilled workers. Indeed, many routine jobs are being replaced by machines.

This says one way to ensure Australian workers prosper in the digital future of work is to ensure our workforce is well educated and highly trained. We must be willing to spend – to invest – however much it takes to have a workforce capable of providing the more analytical, caring and creative skills employers will be demanding.

We need to do more to help our teachers teach better so that fewer kids leave school early without having acquired sufficient education to survive in the world of work. Some teachers are better at it than others; they need to be used to train younger teachers on the job and rewarded accordingly.

If our politicians would speak to us more honestly along the lines of “you get what you pay for”, that itself would be a welcome reform.

Universities need to be better funded by the federal government, so they can afford to give students a higher quality education, vice-chancellors aren’t so eternally money hungry, unis stop exploiting younger staff with insecure employment and aren’t so dependent on making money out of overseas students and thus obsessed by finding ways to game the international university league tables.

How’s all this to be afforded? By all of us paying somewhat higher taxes, how else? By politicians giving up their election-time pretense that taxes can come down without that leading to worse quality government services rather than better.

Throwing money at problems doesn’t magically fix them, you must use the money effectively. But when mindless cost-cutting is the source of much of the problem, nor is it possible to fix problems without spending more.

If our politicians would speak to us more honestly along the lines of “you get what you pay for”, that itself would be a welcome reform.

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