Australian National Outlook 2019



ANO 2019 Participants

The following individuals contributed to the Australian National Outlook 2019.

ANO 2019 Member Organisations

Executive summary

The Australian National Outlook 2019 combines CSIRO’s integrated modelling and research with input from National Outlook participants, a group comprised of over 50 leaders across 22 leading Australian organisations from industry, the not-for-profit and education sectors, to provide a compelling view about Australia’s future.

Through a highly collaborative process over two years, participants explored several possible outcomes for the nation in order to help Australians continue to enjoy the best quality of life available to any nation, and for future generations to have access to even better opportunities.

1 - Inception meeting

2 - Global workshop

Quantitative modelling

Qualitative narrative

3 - Launch and national scenarios

4 - Scenarios workshop

5 - Key success factors

6 - Preliminary modelling results

7 - Substantive results

8 - Full results and key findings

9 - Narrative development

Reviews, report drafting

Shared participant vision

The challenges ahead

Australia has enjoyed nearly three decades of uninterrupted economic growth.1 Its cities are consistently ranked among the most liveable in the world,2 its landscapes and marine ecosystems are both beautiful and productive, and historically Australia has enjoyed strong social cohesion that has fostered consensus on its most difficult national challenges. However, there is no guarantee that this good fortune will continue into the future. The world is changing rapidly and Australia will need to adapt to keep up. In particular, there are six main challenges National Outlook participants identified:

Rise of Asia is shifting the geopolitical and economic landscape. By 2030, the Asia–Pacific region will be home to 65% of the world’s middle class.3 However, unless Australia can boost its competitiveness and diversify its export mix to meet changing demands, it risks missing out on this opportunity and remaining vulnerable to external shocks.

Technological change, such as artificial intelligence, automation and advances in biotechnology are transforming existing industries and changing the skills required for high-quality jobs.4 Unless Australia can reverse its recent declines in educational performance,5 its future workforce could be poorly prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

Climate change and environment poses a significant economic, environmental and social threat globally and for Australia. The world has already experienced warming of approximately 1°C from pre-Industrial levels6 and could be on a path to 4°C global warming (or worse) by 2100 unless significant action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Demographics is growing and ageing, putting pressure on cities, infrastructure and public services. At current rates, Sydney and Melbourne will each house 8–9 million people by 2060, and workforce participation rates will drop from 66% to 60%.7,8 Investment in infrastructure and services will need to keep up as Australia’s population as a whole approaches 41 million.9

Trust in governments, businesses, non-governmental organisations and the media has declined.10 Unless trust can be restored, Australia will find it difficult to build consensus on the long-term solutions required to address the other challenges.

Social cohesion measures have declined over the past decade, with many Australians feeling left behind.11 Although the drivers of social cohesion are complex, issues related to trust, as well as factors such as financial stress, slow wage growth and poor housing affordability, may all play a role.

A strong vision for Australia

Informed by the evidence, National Outlook participants explored multiple potential futures and identified two contrasting scenarios for Australia in 2060: Slow Decline and the Outlook Vision. In Slow Decline, Australia fails to adequately address the global and domestic issues, resulting in declining economic, social and environmental outcomes. In the Outlook Vision, Australia takes decisive action and a long-term view, achieving much more positive outcomes. Drawing on CSIRO’s integrated modelling, this report shows that the difference between these two scenarios is large and worth fighting for.

Slow Decline

In Slow Decline, Australia drifts into the future. Economic growth, investment and education outcomes are all relatively weak. Australia’s economy is increasingly vulnerable to external shocks. Total Factor Productivity (TFP) growth remains well below the global frontier and wage growth is relatively low.

Australia’s cities sprawl outwards, making it more difficult for people in the outer suburbs to access jobs, education and services. Housing affordability remains a major concern. This deepens social divisions and polarisation. Trust in institutions remains low.

Although energy policy issues are resolved domestically, the low-emissions energy transition is stymied by a lack of global cooperation on climate change. Both energy and agricultural productivity remain relatively low.

Outlook Vision

In the Outlook Vision, Australia reaches its full potential. Economic growth remains strong and inclusive as Australian companies use technology to move productivity towards the global frontier and create new globally competitive, export-facing industries. Improved educational outcomes give Australians the skills they need to compete in this technology-enabled workforce.

Australia’s cities are dynamic and diverse global centres with higher-density populations, a diverse range of affordable housing options and equal access to high-quality jobs, recreation, education and other services.

Australia successfully transitions its energy system, with high reliability and affordability and lower emissions.

If the world cooperates to limit climate change to 2°C, Australia can go even further and reach ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050, driven by significant shifts in land use to carbon plantings.

Five key shifts

Achieving the positive outcomes described in the Outlook Vision is within Australia’s grasp, but will require significant action and long-term thinking across a range of important issues. Through an iterative process, CSIRO worked with National Outlook participants to interpret the modelled results and identify five core shifts for Australia.

An industry shift will enable a productive, inclusive and resilient economy, with new strengths in both the domestic and export sectors.

An urban shift will enable well-connected, affordable cities that offer more equal access to quality jobs, lifestyle amenities, education and other services.

An energy shift will manage Australia’s transition to a reliable, affordable, low-emissions energy economy that builds on Australia’s existing sources of comparative advantage.

A land shift will create a profitable and sustainable mosaic of food, fibre and fuel production, carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

A culture shift will encourage more engagement, curiosity, collaboration and solutions, and should be supported by inclusive civic and political institutions.

Outlook Vision of an inclusive, resilient and prosperous economy


1 OECD (2017) OECD economic surveys: Australia, Overview. OECD

2 The Economist Intelligence Unit (2018) The global liveability index 2018. The Economist Group

3 Kharas H (2017) The Unprecedented Expansion of the Global Middle Class: An Update. Brookings Institution.

4 Schwab K (2016) The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond. World Economic Forum

5 Thomson S, De Bertoli L, Underwood C (2015) PISA 2015: A first look at Australia’s Results. Australian Council for Educational Research

6 BoM and CSIRO (2018) State of the Climate 2018.

7 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2018) 6202.0 - Labour Force, Australia (Table 1). ABS

8 Productivity Commission (2013) An Ageing Australia: Preparing for the Future. Australian Government

9 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2013) Population Projections, Australia, 2012 (base) to 2101 ABS 32220. ABS

10 Edelman (2018) 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer global report. Edelman

11 The Scanlon Foundation (2017) Mapping social cohesion, the Scanlon Foundation surveys 2017. Monash University


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