The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) has welcomed the conclusion to negotiations and the resulting formation of Government, however it says the Labor Government now needs to make some ‘tough decisions’.
According to Ai Group chief executive, Heather Ridout, stable government is important to business and the wider community but equally Australia needs a government that works – one that can make tough decisions around contested areas that are fundamental to longer-term prosperity.
"The strength of our economy, our fiscal position, our location close to the new centre of global economic growth and our human and physical resources base gives Australia a lot of opportunities and choices,” she said.
"To realise these, we need to restore our flagging productivity growth, make further gains in workforce participation, build our business capabilities and equip ourselves to manage the structural pressures that are associated with the minerals boom.
"Our recent reform efforts and policy execution have fallen short. The new Government needs to develop a positive reform agenda and deliver it competently. This should focus equally on the processes through which reforms can be achieved and on the design of those reforms.
"In relation to its agenda, the Government needs to prioritise short and medium-term agendas and focus on achieving them.”
In the short term, three key issues are essential to Australia’s global competitiveness and the growth of a balanced economy should be given priority, Ridout says.
• Investing in the development of a strong and growing skills base that equips Australian industry to meet its long-term competitiveness challenges;
• Encouraging innovation and business capability development including with a fully-functioning research and development tax incentive and enhanced support for the development of export markets and experience in global engagement; and
• Settling down the new workplace relations system: the Government needs to have an open mind to amendments to the Fair Work Act including in the areas of transfer of business laws, and flexibility terms in enterprise agreements. The Government should also adopt Ai Group’s amendments to the proposed Bill in relation to the future of the ABCC.
"In relation to the medium-term agenda, there are clearly going to be major debates around climate change, taxation reform and population,” Ridout said.
“The independents’ proposed ‘Tax Summit’ could potentially provide a valuable opportunity to consider and develop the positive directions set out in the Henry Review; however, a lot of preparation would need to be done before we get to that point. There is also important progress to be made in the areas of infrastructure development including in relation to broadband and the working of the federation. It is critical that the business community is fully engaged in these agendas and their implementation.
"Ai Group will work with all sides of politics in the Parliament to promote the case for these improvements.
“We also again urge all parties to make concerted efforts to restore bipartisanship around immigration policy. To cut through the politics and rebuild integrity around this divisive policy area, an eminent and independent mediator could be appointed.
"While the ‘new politics’ will involve a much higher level of consultation in the Parliament, it is also critical that other stakeholders, including business, are fully engaged to achieve lasting advances.”