2006 Strategy Forum Sets BCA Focus For Next 12 Months

Turning Reform Commitments into Action + Can Australia’s Reform Processes be Improved?

The annual strategy forum of Chief Executive Members of the Business Council has recommitted the BCA to pursuing its ‘four reform steps’ agenda, with the emphasis over the next 12 months on making sure reform commitments made by governments over the past year are implemented in a timely way.

BCA President, Mr Michael Chaney, said the 2006 strategy forum in Melbourne this week also committed the council to examining ways to improve reform decision making, as part of a wider debate about Australia’s federal system.

Mr Chaney said there has been significant progress over the past 12 months in achieving reform in the four areas identified by the BCA – business regulation, workplace relations, infrastructure renewal and taxation – all of which need renewal so Australia’s current prosperity remains sustainable over the long term.

Federal and state governments should be congratulated for agreeing on a national agenda to reform business regulation, infrastructure and education and skills at the February meeting of the Council of Australian Governments.

The recent release of the Australian Government’s regulations to give effect to renewed workplace relations reform, as well as the review into Australia’s tax competitiveness announced recently by the Treasurer were also welcomed.

While Australia had opted for reform action rather than complacency, there were important lessons to be learnt from the past 12 to 18 months, particularly whether the processes around anticipating, agreeing and implementing reform could be improved.

“Platforms are in place for reform in these four key areas of the economy and governments around the country deserve strong praise for achieving agreement around what are important reforms for Australia.

“Yet the reform progress of federal and state governments still requires ongoing scrutiny so that agreements and commitments are followed through.

“While the COAG outcomes were a significant step forward, it has highlighted the weaknesses of a federal system of government that warrant examination and public debate about the potential for a new form of federalism.

“In particular, Australia’s federal system, while providing benefits of local autonomy, creates costly duplication and overlap that can not only impede sustained growth, but make reform decision making to address these issues inefficient.

 “The key message from the BCA’s initial thinking on the issue is that Australia needs to better anticipate potential barriers to growth, agree on reform measures to address them and proactively implement these reforms before these barriers have a cost to the economy, and more remedial or reactive reforms are needed.

“Other countries are updating their economic policy and reform management processes in the face of global change which is becoming more rapid, and exposing problems and constraints with individual economies more readily.

”With many now recognising that reform is an ongoing process, there is a strong case for Australia doing the same.”

The BCA intends to develop a major paper around the issue later this year.