The Business Council of Australia has welcomed the federal government’s Budget, particularly steps to improve Australia’s higher education sector and international taxation regime.
“Overall we are pleased with the Budget and the new policy initiatives in higher education and international tax,” BCA Chief Executive, Ms Katie Lahey said.
“Both have been an important part of the BCA’s policy agenda.”
Ms Lahey said the BCA was particularly pleased to see the higher education sector take centre stage in the Budget, as well as measured tax relief for Australian workers, especially low-income earners.
“These measures represent a return on Australia’s sustained economic growth and sound fiscal management,” she said.
The federal government’s announcement of a series of major recommendations that improves financing, access, and governance models for universities as well as new initiatives to support the ongoing internationalisation of Australia’s higher education represented a comprehensive long-term commitment to the sector.
“Higher education is fundamental to a highly skilled, innovative and competitive Australian economy,” she said.
“The package of changes, including an additional $1.5 billion over the next four years, reflects a long-term commitment to higher education and the government’s endeavors to ensure a high-quality international recognised sector.
“The emphasis placed on the importance of higher education as an international export industry and a way to support improved international understandings and relationships cannot be underestimated.”
Ms Lahey said the BCA also welcomed changes to reform Australia’s international tax laws which represented significant steps to removing the barriers to Australia’s participation in the international economy.
“These changes will help Australia to attract higher levels of foreign investment and assist in the capacity of our companies to participate globally from a domestic base,” she said.
The BCA called for changes to higher education and international tax to be supported by all sides of politics, emphasising that both initiatives would result in positive impacts for all Australian businesses and hence the economy in general.
In terms of overall budget forecasts, the Australian economy has continued to perform well in the face of significant challenges.
“This reflects sound economic policies and management, and we consider this Budget represents a continuation of that trend,” Ms Lahey said.
“Against the backdrop of global uncertainty, the drought, war in Iraq, and SARS, we believe the government has achieved a balanced outcome of increased spending in priority areas, as well as delivering measured tax relief.
“The three-and-a-quarter per cent revised growth projection for next year is credible and we think achievable.”
While business investment remains strong, some moderation in the business investment outlook in the Budget was also appropriate.
“While many of the fundamentals underlying the outlook for business investment in Australia remain positive the global environment is very uncertain and is likely to weigh on investment intentions,” Ms Lahey said.
“We are pleased to see that the Budget remains solid in face of an uncertain global environment.”