Discussion Paper for the COAG Business Advisory Forum

Statement from BCA Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott on the COAG Business Advisory Forum

The Business Council of Australia has released a paper prepared for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Business Advisory Forum meeting this Thursday outlining how COAG can more effectively deliver on its agenda and lift national competitiveness and productivity.

Prepared in consultation with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the Australian Industry Group (AI Group), and with feedback from the Council of Small Business Australia, the paper nominates six key reform initiatives for the federation.

We congratulate the Commonwealth and the states on the initiative to establish the business advisory forum, which is a recognition of the contribution business can make to national policy development.

The paper makes a number of recommendations which have been identified on the basis of their capacity to fast track productivity improvements and lift Australia’s competitiveness.

The paper calls for a greater focus on fewer areas so that outcomes can be achieved more effectively in the areas that will have the greatest impact on improving the economy on the ground.

The six priority reform areas recommended in the paper include:

  • lifting regulatory performance to lower the costs to business and the community
  • streamlining environmental assessments and approvals between the Commonwealth and the states
  • improving the efficiency of approvals for major development projects
  • better development assessment processes for low-risk, low-impact development such as residential housing and small-scale commercial development
  • removing unnecessary carbon reduction and energy efficiency initiatives
  • delivering energy market reforms to increase competition and reduce costs

Businesses, large and small, are absolutely on the same page when it comes to making the federation work better, including priorities for cutting red tape and reducing the cost of doing business in an increasingly competitive world.

The paper presents a unified position from businesses operating on the ground of the Australian economy on how governments can more effectively pursue reforms that have the greatest impact on creating jobs, encouraging investment and economic growth.

The paper stresses the importance of completing the seamless national economy reforms, including removing the artificial barrier between the 27 regulatory hotspots and the unfinished competition reforms to areas such as road and rail regulation and energy markets reforms.

It also recommends reinvigorating competition policy to maximise the productivity benefits from future reforms.

It proposes restarting competition policy reforms through a new scheme of National Productivity Payments.

Under the scheme, reform ideas would be generated by the states in consultation with business and other stakeholders.

Reforms would be eligible for the scheme if they met a minimum threshold for potential productivity payoffs. Payments would then be allocated to states on the achievement of reform outcomes.

Competition policy reforms through the 1990s had a major impact on lifting Australia's productivity and enabling businesses large and small to remain competitive both nationally and internationally.

COAG can continue to be the engine room for reforms that deliver benefits for all Australians but it must refocus its priorities on achieving outcomes that really matter for national competitiveness and productivity.

For the first time in 112 years business has a genuine seat at the table with first ministers as they work through ways to lift shackles on the economy accumulated over the years between our multiple jurisdictions.

With the economy in transition and many businesses struggling to stay competitive it is vital that COAG is helped to look at all of its reforms through the lens of what is going to make it easier to do business and reducing unnecessary business costs so the economy can grow faster.

The Business Advisory Forum, which the Business Council of Australia hopes will become a permanent adjunct to the COAG process, can be a strong and clear voice to assist all governments to deliver their reform agendas in a way that also helps business get on with building a stronger economy for all.

Discussion Paper for the COAG Business Advisory Forum