Provided a stage for policy reflection with our Sambell Oration

Jenny Macklin speaking from a stage
Hon Jenny Macklin delivered the 2019 Sambell Oration

Ms Macklin has been at the frontline of social policy debates for more than three decades and gave an inspiring and thought-provoking speech on how we must find a path to a just and sustainable future for all.

The theme of the event was “2019: Towards a just future – reimagining social and economic policy for our insecure times.”

Ms Macklin, now a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne, offered a frank perspective on social and economic policy trends in Australia. She discussed challenges ahead to enable economic security for all. How do we rebuild declining trust in our institutions in an era of remarkable – yet stubbornly uneven – prosperity?

She proposed that this point in history provides “an opportunity to solve the intertwined challenges of sustainability and inequality.” These challenges together are sources of the uncertainty with many “Australians worry [ing] that their jobs and families will be the collateral damage of any response to climate change.”

Ms Macklin proposed that the challenge of today is to give Australians reasons to trust that the transition to a greener future will be a just one and that an Emissions and Employment Accord is the way to achieve this.

In response, BSL Executive Director, Conny Lenneberg, praised Ms Macklin’s proposal for a new employment and emissions accord. She acknowledged that the conditions described for future prosperity resonate with BSL’s mission: that we all have the right to participate in creating and sharing our nation’s prosperity.

Jenny Macklin and Conny Lenneberg at the Oration
Jenny Macklin and Conny Lenneberg at the Oration

Reflecting on the Oration in October 2020, Ms Lenneberg added that through the COVID-19 health crisis we have seen this borne out. Governments, political actors, the business community and institutions, have come together to address challenges in a bi-partisan way. “It builds confidence that we can work together to achieve outcomes that keep us all safe and address society’s underlying inequalities. Once again, these are policy choices. We have proven Australia does have the resources to ensure that our social safety net is a trampoline and not a trap. It can allow people, even if they've fallen on hard times, to contribute to and share in a meaningful existence,” she said.

The experience of 2020 has really shown how shallow the narrative, “If you're experiencing hardship, especially if you are unemployed, you have made some bad choices”. Poverty is systemic, and this year has shown that any of us could find our economic security – the plans and hard work that we have put in place over a lifetime – could be pulled out from under us because of circumstances beyond our own control.

She concluded, “We need to learn from this and treat each other with compassion, not judgement – and make policy choices to create a brighter future – for the whole community.”

Read Jenny Macklin’s 2019 Sambell Oration (63KB, PDF)

Read Conny Lenneberg’s 2019 response to the Sambell Oration (333KB, PDF)