This opinion article by Tony Shepherd, President of the Business Council of Australia, was published in The Daily Telegraph on 31 July 2013 under the title ‘Business Road Map for Our Future Prosperity’.
The plan released today by the Business Council of Australia is based on a vision of enduring national prosperity for all Australians characterised by:
- a growing, more diversified, economy
- budgets based on spending what we can afford and with inbuilt reserves and resilience to deal with future shocks
- competitive industries that are able to seize global opportunities
- having the most educated and skilled people on the planet
- showing we have shared wealth properly and tackled entrenched disadvantage.
These ideas are not utopian. They have driven my generation and past generations of Australians. But we will not achieve them if we continue going the way we’re going.
Our country is facing some serious headwinds. We are becoming less competitive and less productive. Our children’s standards of literacy and numeracy have slipped behind Europe, the US and Asia. We don’t have the environment to drive innovation.
We need to do something. We need a proper, thoughtful plan that brings together economic, social and environmental fronts in a logical and consistent way.
The Business Council has tried to do this with a plan based on a very simple proposition: We need to grow our economy just to maintain – let alone improve – living standards. And we need to align sound economic policy with sound social policy if we are to secure meaningful prosperity that benefits all Australians.
It’s the economy that must do the hard yards of delivering the funding for infrastructure, physical and social, and providing services people need, including a decent social safety net.
Business is the driver of economic growth. Without businesses there can be no meaningful economic growth.
I sometimes fear Australians feel this country has lost the capacity to get big things done. Too often I hear people say these ideas are great, but we don’t have the right political leadership. That’s a cop-out. We have had political leadership in the past. That’s why we are no longer a penal colony.
We know there will be diverse views about the road map we have put forward and we welcome that.
This reform program can only be progressed if different sectors work to find and build common ground, and to negotiate where we have differences.
Let’s make it clear to our political leaders that we won’t be divided in the pursuit of the kind of nation Australians aspire to.