Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Wayne Swan rejects retirement call as he launches Labor-backed inequality think tank

The former Treasurer now Labor backbencher, Wayne Swan, has kept a low profile since the Abbott government was elected in 2013.

But today he's launching a new Labor-backed think tank, to highlight what it believes is growing economic inequality in Australia.

Mr Swan will co-chair the Inclusive Prosperity Commission which will mirror the body established in the United States by President Obama to counter the fallout from the global financial crisis.
"The challenge we have in Australia is that the Federal Government has taken up the agenda of the radical right, and of course that agenda of deregulation, slashing wages, cutting up the social safety net, is actually a recipe for increasing wealth concentration and income concentration and a reduction into the high degrees of social mobility that we've got," Mr Swan told AM.

"We need a new set of policies, to spread the benefits of growth, and they don't come from the trickledown economics model adopted by the Federal Government and put in place by the Reaganites over 30 years ago."

The commission is planning to present a formal public report in the leadup to the 2016 federal election.

The commission, which will be hosted by the Chifley Research Centre, includes a high profile cross-section including the former National Australia Bank chief executive Cameron Clyne, ACTU secretary Dave Oliver and economist Stephen Koukoulas who advised Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

"It's clearly a group of people who are in the centre and the centre left of politics. So unashamedly we've got a group of people who are very well qualified from the centre of Australian political life working to put together a new set of ideas to make sure we, as Australians, continue to grow, but grow fairly. Because fairness is the essence of strong sustainable growth for the long term," Mr Swan said.

Mr Swan said the windback of the mining investment boom presents policy challenges given the wealth for corporate taxes and royalties over the past decade.

"I'm not a pessimist about the Australian economy, but we do need a balanced set of policies which promotes growth, with fairness. We are ideally placed to maximise the opportunities which are going to flow from the Asian century, if we get our policy settings right," Mr Swan told AM.

"Australia does need to be competitive, but we also need to have appropriate fiscal and monetary policies, we've got make sure that we've got the industrialisation policies which are not only fair, but drive productivity growth.

"And we've got to make sure above all, that we continue those critical investments in health and education that drive equality of our human capital. That's what makes the difference for Australia, and that's what will make the difference in the Asian century".

Mr Swan, who served as Treasurer for six years under Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, is stepping back into the limelight at the same time that pressure is mounting for him to retire from politics.

Some colleagues are urging him not to re-nominate for his Brisbane seat of Lilley.

But Mr Swan has rejected the calls to go and says he wants to play a mentor role to other Labor members of parliament.

"I've recommitted to running for another term to seek the support of my electorate for a further three years.

"I'm passionate about making Australia a better place in the future and I believe I can make a contribution from the backbench utilising my experience as Treasurer of Australia for six years and I intend to do that.

"I also think there's a role for people such as myself to act as a mentor to members of parliament".

But Mr Swan said despite renominating he did not harbour ambitions for front bench or leadership positions.

"No I don't - I certainly don't."

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