Business Council releases a plan for a stronger Australia

The Business Council is today releasing a plan aimed at creating a more resilient Australia, with better jobs, more jobs, higher wages, lower taxes, improved living standards, and lower energy prices, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

A plan for a stronger Australia can deliver practical action on the concerns Australians have raised with us over the past 12 months as we’ve travelled to Adelaide, Broadmeadows, Penrith, Gladstone, Busselton, Toowoomba, Geelong, Townsville, Cairns and Hobart.

“Australians are worried about the future. They want leadership and a vision that will allow them to get ahead.

“They’ve told us they want action to increase their wages, lower their electricity bills and living costs, skills and training, reduced congestion in their cities, and increased opportunities in the regions.

“Employers, just like all of our other major institutions, know we must work to rebuild trust with the community – and we are. The Australians we’ve spoken to have been clear, an anti-business, anti-growth agenda won’t deliver the jobs, higher wages and greater opportunities they want for themselves and their families. 

“Elections can either be a positive vision for the country or they can be a race to the bottom where measures are taken off the table. We are calling for a positive vision for Australians.”

The to do list:

  • Introduce an infrastructure planning trigger as part of a population plan. This would allow population projections to be used to better inform public infrastructure planning and investment priorities to meet demand in growing communities, instead of playing catch-up.
  • Audit the strengths of regional areas, then prioritise and target infrastructure dollars into the centres with the best potential grow. New spending in the right areas means regional centres can attract employers, jobs, services and workers. We need to make the regions more attractive, and we need to take the pressure off Sydney and Melbourne.
  • Urgently reform the post-secondary education and skills system. Remove the cultural and funding bias against vocational education and training by moving to a single funding model for both VET and higher education.
  • Give every Australian a Lifelong Skills Account for their training and education needs through their working lives, allowing them to choose where, what and when they study.
  • Maintain and strengthen the enterprise bargaining system, ensuring it works better for low-paid workers.
  • Reject the straitjacket of industry-wide bargaining that limits the ability of employers and workers to adapt to technological change and prevent them from putting in place the conditions that will work for their individual workplaces.
  • Grow the economy faster and encourage investment and innovation to drive productivity. Increasing wages cannot be a quick fix, cost someone else a job or force consumers to pay higher prices.
  • Keep personal income taxes as low as possible so workers keep more of their own money. We support efforts to tackle bracket creep.
  • Fire up investment, by lowering the rate of company tax (in stages) from 30 per cent to 25 per cent for all companies.
  • Consider introducing a broad-based investment allowance that would stay in place until Australia tackles its uncompetitive tax rate for larger companies. The allowance would apply to all investments that are depreciable under current tax law, such as machinery, equipment, intangible assets and buildings.
  • Get power bills down by delivering and sticking to a bipartisan long-term national energy policy. This would deliver reliable, affordable and secure energy.
  • Action on climate change must strike a balance between reducing emissions while protecting jobs and living standards, especially in regional Australia. A price signal that places a value on technologies that produce lower emissions is the simplest, most efficient way to drive the investment and innovation needed to move to a lower-carbon economy.
  • Increase the single rate of Newstart for those who have been on the payment for a long time and improve the ability of long term job seekers to find jobs and stay in work. We have supported increasing Newstart since 2011 because it is the right thing to do.
  • Hold a Productivity Commission inquiry into entrenched disadvantage to find out why some Australians are just not getting ahead. We need to ensure people are getting the right services, and right support so, where they can, they move back into work.

“Recent economic growth figures are a wake-up call and Australia cannot afford to be complacent.

“We are living in fantasy land if we think our run of 28 years of uninterrupted growth will continue without taking steps to address Australia’s sluggish investment and poor productivity rates.

“We need the economy to grow faster to deliver more for all Australians and we need a strong budget to pay for the services Australians need now and into the future.

“One of the best ways to drive faster economic growth is to increase productivity. This means attracting more investment and innovation, so businesses can improve the way they operate; working smarter and more efficiently.

“This has always been, is currently, and will always be the key to delivering lasting increases to wages and living standards, outside of a commodity prices boom.

“Businesses – big and small – are made up of working people, customers, suppliers, shareholders and the communities in which they operate.

“Businesses don’t sit on the sidelines of the economy – they are at its centre. They are people. Businesses employ 11 million of the 13 million working Australians, and are responsible for 80 per cent of all economic activity in Australia.

“When businesses are successful, they hire more workers, pay higher wages, keep communities strong, and contribute more revenue to government coffers to pay for the schools, hospitals and services Australians need.

“We believe it is unfair not to prepare Australia for the future, it is unfair not to give Australia the tools it needs to face the challenges of a volatile world, and it is unfair not to do everything we can to ensure Australians can get ahead.

“Australia is a great place to live, but let’s make it even better.’’