While John Howard was pursuing Workchoices in the 2000s, others were talking about different types of economic reform. Specifically, what was called "the human capital agenda", the so-called third wave of economic reform after micro-economic reform in the 1980s and early 1990s, and competition policy. "Human capital" focused on increasing productivity, participation and output through improved education levels and skills, a healthier workforce, and more efficient and effective health and education systems.

Much of this was reform terra incognita -- we didn't (and still don't) know how to measure productivity in health and education despite their being major areas of government expenditure. Since then, they've only grown bigger. Earlier this year, education passed 8% of the Australian workforce; health and social care has been the largest employer in the country for nearly a decade. Together, education and health employ over 2.5 million people, or more than 20% of the whole workforce.