Jennifer Westacott interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

12 May 2021

Event: Jennifer Westacott interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

Speakers: Ben Fordham, host; Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia

Date: 12 May 2021

Topics: Budget 2021


Ben Fordham, host 2GB: Jennifer Westacott is the boss of the Business Council of Australia. Good morning to you Jennifer. 

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia: Good morning Ben.

Ben: I'm keen to get your report card on Budget 2021.

Jennifer: Look I think it's a really strong budget. The stuff for business is fantastic because it will allow them to employ more people, invest more, start to pay people more, export more, the things you've just gone through - the instant asset write-off being extended is great news. I think the other really important thing about the budget is the skills stuff. We're talking about a $4 billion package on skills, big increase to apprenticeships, the JobTrainer program to allow people to do those short courses, and a lot of assistance for people trying to get into work. And then you've got the social stuff which is of course the dividend of getting a stronger budget, a growing economy. $17 billion into aged care, that is a huge amount of money Ben. Now we need to see reform and obviously improved services, big licks of money into mental health. So on balance and extremely good budget. The only thing I'm worried about is the growth in the outer years. We need to keep growth going because that's what gets wages up and that's what obviously allows us to keep our social programs going.

Ben: Alright now let me just ask you about wages. Because wages won't grow higher than 1.25 per cent this financial year. However, the cost of living is going up 3.5 per cent. So that effectively leaves with workers with a pay cut this financial year. What should bosses be doing about that?

Jennifer: Well bosses have to invest and bosses have to have the environment to invest. Because it's investment and driving, the term productivity, which doesn't mean working harder for less it means getting that plant and equipment you've just talked about, skilling their workers up. That allows them to expand more, grow more, that allows them to pay people more. The other thing we need to do is to stop the decline of the enterprise bargaining system. Because people on the enterprise bargaining system get on average $100 a day more than somebody on an award. Now I really encourage the government to get back to the table and fix that because it's falling apart. But we all have a part to play here but business needs the incentive to make those investments. There's a lot in the budget here. We all want to see wages going up because we want to see people’s living standards go up.

Ben: Great to get your take, Jennifer. We'll catch up again soon.


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