The Prime Minister might be thinking Treasury has been sitting on perfect solutions to the country's employment and skills woes to give officials 12 months to complete a white paper on the issue.
It will be the first major Treasury white paper in a while, with the 2014 tax review that was abandoned about a year later a searing memory for officials.
The two-day jobs summit that kicks off the white paper process is unlikely to yield anything new with all sectors of the economy, all the major players and Treasury itself keenly exercised for some time on addressing the skill shortage following Australia's net migration loss during the pandemic border closure.
Anthony Albanese says his government will implement any easy wins out of the summit, but it could do so tomorrow without the expense if it were that simple. His government is already doing many of the frequently called for ideas, like lifting the migration cap, policy settings to increase women's workplace participation, and creating a new Jobs and Skills Australia agency in the first weeks of the new parliament. Rather, the Prime Minister is fulfilling an election commitment to hold the summit and signalling how Labor wants to be seen as a different kind of government to its predecessor.
Imagine something between Kevin Rudd's Australia 2030 talkfest that was high on blue sky thinking and low on deliverables, and the Coalition's closed-door enterprise bargaining round table. It will be reminiscent of the 1983 National Economic Summit in Old Parliament House under Bob Hawke, but with perhaps a few more invites to limit the naysayers left out.
The government would be keen to keep its own summit focused, but inclusive of the many stakeholders. Business and union peak bodies in their usual dance. Regional voices will need a seat at the table, as well the sectors identified as most needed for strategic reshaping of the Australian labour market.
Keeping it relatively open will help limit post-summit detractors. The PM was quick to point out that the former government legislated something far different from "national interest" consensus that participants at its bargaining round table came to.
There may be more value in the white paper process. The new Labor ministers have not had the benefit of daily advice from departmental officials for the last nine years and it may take some time for the government to realise the loudest and friendliest voices are not the only perspectives.
It may also realise the public service can give frank and fearless advice that may be uncomfortable and unpopular. Or perhaps it already has and that is why the summit and white paper are looking at skills, growth, wages and participation, but not tax, the most uncomfortable and unpopular topic of all.
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