Rethinking finance: a new portfolio approach

Crawford School of Public Policy | | Tax and Transfer Policy Institute

Event details


Date & time

Thursday 16 November 2017


Weston Theatre, Level 1, JG Crawford Building 132, Lennox Crossing, ANU


Dr Jim Chalmers MP, Shadow Minister for Finance.


Yanhong Ouyang

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In 1976, Malcolm Fraser split the Department of Finance from the existing Treasury, frustrated and in search of contested sources of budget advice. Treasury’s heralded role in the 41 years since Australia’s two-headed economic policy machine was built is well documented and well understood.

The same can’t be said for Finance. The newer department does much of its work behind the scenes; its worth often viewed through a limited or narrow lens; its minister frequently caricatured as one who exists just to say no to colleagues’ spending plans, fix internal problems and robotically recite the Government’s key messages.

Few, for example, would understand the role Finance plays in the National Broadband Network, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, big infrastructure projects, and other government businesses. Fewer still would appreciate the portfolio’s capacity to help inform and drive a Government’s broader economic strategy in tandem with an effective, reforming Treasury and Treasurer.

Safeguarding the bottom line remains Finance’s primary role, but not its only one. Improving the budget relies on a holy trinity of spending restraint, tax reform and economic growth. Through fiscal policy, Finance has a vital part to play in encouraging growth which is inclusive, work which is rewarded and rewarding, and a decent social safety net for those at risk of being left behind.

With public debt at new record levels and rising, a more active, progressive and entrepreneurial approach to the portfolio is essential.

This address, among other things, will propose a new, more sophisticated approach to co-investment as a guiding principle. It will provide some fresh thinking about value for money, budgeting and investing over longer timeframes, refocusing the role of the public sector, embedding broader economic objectives in our fiscal rules and plans, and more.

Dr Jim Chalmers MP has been the Shadow Minister for Finance since 2016 and the Member for Rankin in the Australian Parliament since 2013. He was formerly Shadow Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Shadow Minister for Sport, Shadow Assistant Minister for Trade, Investment and Productivity, Shadow Assistant Minister for Resources, and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition.

Before being elected to Parliament, Jim was the Executive Director of the Chifley Research Centre and prior to that, Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer.

He has a PhD in political science and international relations from The Australian National University and a first class honours degree in public policy from Griffith University, and is a qualified company director.
Jim is also a member of the Griffith University Logan Campus Development Advisory Group; the Griffith University School of Government and International Relations Advisory Board, and the Board of Advisors at the Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

Jim’s most recent book, Changing Jobs: the Fair Go in the New Machine Age, is co-authored with Mike Quigley and was released in September. His earlier book about the Global Financial Crisis, Glory Daze, was published in 2013.

Light lunch will be provided.

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