Business Council president Tim Reed interview with Brooke Corte, 2GB Money News

Event: Business Council president Tim Reed interview with Brooke Corte, 2GB Money News

Speaker: Tim Reed, president Business Council of Australia and Brooke Corte, host 2GB Money News

Topics: Jobs; economic recovery; skills

E&OE

Brooke Corte, host 2GB Money News: We're in the first recession in 30 years in this country and so far everyone's rallied together to get through the crisis, but ultimately it is going to be the business community which drives the creation of thousands upon thousands of new jobs and takes the lead role in a jobs led recovery. Tim Reed is the president of the Business Council of Australia, which represents the interest of big business. But I've also spoken to him many times in the past when he was the former CEO of MYOB. So that's a big business which serves the needs and very much understands the needs of small business. So I think he's got a very unique and useful, practical perspective. Tim Reed has been in Canberra today speaking on this very topic. Tim Reed welcome to Money News.

Tim Reed, president Business Council of Australia: It's great to be with you.

Brooke: And we have to see this is a big moment for our economy. It's a rare opportunity to reform it. What is the role of business now?

Tim: It is a big moment Brooke. And I think that, that quote that you read out from Bill Evans is, let's be honest, it cuts. It cuts because there are people at the end of this and we talk about jobs, but what we're really talking about is the lives of Australians and the livelihoods of Australians and their ability to go about their life the way that they would have hoped to and expected to. The thing that we have to stare into right now are jobs. Every single decision that the government makes, everything we're doing at the BCA, and I know the focus of our members is around looking at, will this decision drive jobs? Because people who get left behind, people who are unemployed for an extended period of time, we know that it's not just an economic cost. It's a personal cost. It comes at the cost of mental health. It comes at the cost of physical health. So we've got to continue to push ourselves to make sure the top question is, what will this lead to in terms of jobs? Will it sustain existing jobs? Will it create new jobs?

Brooke: Do you subscribe to the theory that governments don't actually create jobs, businesses do?

Tim: I do. But I will say that the government can make it much easier or much harder for businesses to create jobs. And there's four things that we've really been talking to the government about. Number one, policies that will drive demand in the economy because if there are consumers out there buying, then it makes it much easier for businesses to keep employing. Will policies lead to investment by businesses that will create new jobs? Will policies make it easier to start and run a business? Because there are lots of things that slow businesses down, and if we could get rid of those, there would be more business activity that creates more jobs. And will a given policy mean that Australians have the skills that are needed to do the jobs that are being created? And so if we break down that sort of big question around what's it mean for jobs into those four components, we think the government can play a very constructive role in helping businesses create jobs.

Brooke: And you would have had similar discussions with the government over the years, along those sorts of lines, right? But how is the discussion that you're having with government now different?

Tim: It's very different. So certainly we've had these conversations in the past, but I think what a crisis does is really focus the mind. The luxury that we've perhaps had of three decades of economic growth, meaning that perhaps there wasn't the stomach to look at some of the reforms to really question and challenge, means that I think right now as a nation, we're all willing to do that. And the government is a part of that. And I have to take my hat off to both the government and the opposition. I think over the last few months, they've done an outstanding job. They have worked quickly, they have listened, they have collaborated. And when you look around the world, we're in a very envious position right now, relative to others because of that. But the job is really just starting and we need to build on that collaborative approach that they have taken to make sure that we build back stronger.

Brooke: Yeah, we are in that enviable position. But that makes me... Well, I feel cynical about this bipartisanship that we've seen because in a way we'll feel like we got away easily compared to many other parts of the world. So don't you just see a lot of that bipartisanship, that great cooperation between the two sides of politics, particularly, don't you see it just evaporating the first sign of something getting too difficult to sell to the electorate?

Tim: Well, I think we're about to see, because the reality is what we now need to do is shift gears and think about rebuilding. We need to think about skills and having a system that retrains people. We need to be thinking about funding of micro-credentials so that people have the skills to take the jobs that are going to be created. We need to think about those people who are leaving school next year and otherwise would have entered the workforce. What we don't want them doing is losing that year. We need to ask challenging questions around the amount of regulation that we have. The time it takes for planning approvals, and I'm not talking there about lowering environmental standards, but once we have major projects that meet environmental standards, it still takes far too long to get them approved. We need to think about permanent changes to the Corporations Act such that boards of directors are willing to take the risk on really big, bold investments, that right now, they've become quite nervous about because frankly, the regulation that is put on those businesses. So there's all of these things that we need to be engaging in. And it is going to take collaboration across states and federal governments to get them done. So if your supposition is correct, and that we sort of have seen cooperation while it's been easy, but it will fall apart when it gets hard, we're about to see. I think we've all got to collectively tell our leaders that that's what we expect of them. We expect them to continue to show the discipline that they have, to continue to think about the nation first and to put politics second. And maybe you're right, maybe we should all be cynical, but I don't think we've got a lot of choice. I think we've got to get in there and try and maintain that momentum while we've got it.

Brooke: Thank you so much, Tim Reed, you're the president of Business Council Australia. It's great of you to join Money News.

Tim: Great to talk to you.