Australia must be at the frontier

20 July 2022

The Business Council has used a major speech to outline the post-COVID changes Australia needs to put itself at the frontier and deliver the best living standards in the world.

“While we can’t do all of these things at the upcoming Jobs and Skills summit, it should be our starting place for bold reform, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott will say. 

“The Jobs and Skills Summit is an opportunity to recapture the same consensus and determination that helped power the last 30 years of economic growth to make Australia a frontier nation.

 “A frontier nation is one at the cutting edge of wealth and value creation, that leads on innovation and that provides the world’s best living standards for its people.

 “For Australia, reaching the frontier will mean investing in the skills and capabilities of our people, attracting the investment needed to transform our economy and making the most of all our competitive advantages.

 “Australia can’t afford to be in the middle of the road because that won’t generate the higher wages and better living standards Australians want.

 “That means Australia has to pull every lever to be the most competitive economy in the world. Post-COVID, Australia will need to reset in five key areas to set ourselves up for the future.

1. Reimagine and secure our economy and industrial base

“We need to be a magnet for global investment by making ourselves the best place to do business to attract the capital needed to transform our economy.

“With all our advantages, we can be at the cutting edge of the new mining revolution, leaders when it comes to advance manufacturing and a truly digital nation.

“We should be at the front of the new global energy supply chains, exporting our renewable energy and clean manufactured products.

“These things are achievable but only with a clear national focus on scaling up, commercialising new technology and making the most of our people and industries.

2. Focus in on the skills and capabilities of or people

“The massive driver that will take us to the frontier is the capabilities of our people, empowered by our skills and education system.

 “We need to be bold about creating a system that creates multiple pathways for our people to succeed. And we need to work hard at breaking longer degrees and certificates into shorter courses that can be stacked together and achieved quickly.

3. Unleash the regions

“A frontier economy won’t just be about our capital cities, regions will need to take centre stage.

“We’ll need to pick places, identify their strengths and get behind them. To tap into new markets and make the most of our regions we have to start identifying the places with the greatest potential for investment.

4. Strengthen our fiscal position

 “We must avoid the lazy and counter-productive path of just taxing more.

 “Punitive and incentive sapping taxes are not the answer to any of our revenue problems.

 “We should aim to double company tax receipts not by increasing the tax burden but by unleashing new investment and expansion.

“We can start by working across the federation remove productivity sapping and pointless state taxes like stamp duty and payroll tax. And we can be more open to foreign investment by reducing the friction in the system but remaining unwavering in protecting our national interest.

5. Strengthen our national security

 “Weak economies like weak companies are vulnerable and soft targets.

 “The battle in the Ukraine has brought into sharp focus the overwhelming importance of democracies standing together to protect freedoms.

 “We need to be at the forefront of shaping the regional architecture and building the prosperity and resilience of our neighbours, for our mutual benefit.

 “The greatest unfairness we could commit now is to be timid and reticent about seizing the moment, or to retreat to our old ideological corners.

“The government’s Jobs and Skills Summit is a chance to reset Australia’s direction and put us at the front of the pack, but only if we grasp the opportunity.

 “As we did almost four decades ago – and have been doing ever since – the Business Council is ready to work cooperatively with unions, government and civil society groups to reimagine our future.”


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