Delivering the final maiden speech of the Forty-Seventh Parliament, former Accenture managing director and Kevin Rudd economic adviser Dr Andrew Charlton said the government must support the uptake of new technologies to create a new generation of Australian prosperity.
He compared the opportunity for creating prosperity “by managing the transition to the digital economy” to the reforms of the Hawke-Keating governments, which managed Australia’s transition into the global economy.
“The next wave of prosperity requires us to harness the new technologies that are transforming our homes and workplaces. Most of us have smartphones in our pockets that contain more computing power than the Apollo spaceship that landed on the moon,” Dr Charlton said.
“Every day the world generates more new data than all the information in every Australian library combined. These technologies create new opportunities for progressive governments.”
As the new Member for Parramatta, Dr Charlton said that Australia’s economic success had not been an accident, but was rather “the product of good management, of tough decisions, and strong institutions”.
In highlighting the importance of new technologies, Dr Charlton said it could be leveraged to detect social inequalities and provide additional support to the Australians who need it most.
“Imagine a progressive health system that uses new data to make an early diagnosis before a child gets chronically sick. Imagine a progressive school system that uses technology to track the students who might be struggling and give them a little extra help before they fall behind,” Dr Charlton said.
“If we harnessed them for good, new technologies might give us the tools to address social injustice before it ruins lives, before it creates insoluble inequities.”
He commended Industry minister Ed Husic and Energy minister Chris Bowen for “backing Australian success in the industries of the future”.
Dr Charlton said good economic policy puts people at the centre. He claimed Australia had lost sight of this fundamental principle over the last 10 years.
“What is the point of a strong economy if most workers had zero wages growth for a decade? What is the point of near full employment? If millions of people are in insecure work?” he questioned.
“What is the point of rising education levels it hundreds of thousands of migrants find themselves in jobs that don’t even use their qualifications. What is the point of rising incomes? If the gender pay gap is getting worse?”
Comparing the current political landscape to the “sunlit optimism” at the turn of the century, Dr Charlton said that the Albanese Government faces a “darker moment” in the face of retreating liberal democracies around the world.
He emphasised the need to “restore faith in our politics”, through measures such as introducing an integrity commission, to ensure Australia can tackle its “biggest challenges like climate change”.
A former Rhodes scholar, Dr Charlton previously served as the chief economic adviser to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd between December 2007 and June 2010. In 2015, Dr Charlton founded consultancy AlphaBeta, which was acquired by Accenture in 2020. From then, Dr Charlton served as managing director of Accenture Australia until being successfully elected to the House of Representatives.
Prior to his time as an adviser Dr Charlton published a book on how trade can promote economic development with Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. He has also previously worked at the London School of Economics researching productivity and at the United Nations Development Programme.
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