Jennifer Westacott interview with Ross Stevenson and Russel Howcroft, 3AW Breakfast

Event: Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott interview with Ross Stevenson and Russel Howcroft, 3AW Breakfast

Speaker: Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia

Date: 14 August 2020

Topics: Economic recovery, industry policy

E&OE

Ross Stevenson, co-host 3AW Breakfast: Australia's peak business lobby group wants the Morrison government to pick up to 10 industry winners to lead the country out of the recession. We’ve got a million Australians looking for work. Jennifer Westcott, CEO of the Business Council of Australia. Jennifer, good morning to you. 

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

Ross: What do you mean by winners?

Jennifer: Well, it's not about picking winners. In fact, the speech I gave yesterday said it's not about picking winners. So, it's a pretty simple proposition Ross. We've got to use this time to get ahead of the rest of the world. And it's about making sure the overall policies are right - tax, skills, infrastructure - that sort of stuff. But then we've got to pull out all stops to make sure that the stuff that we're really good at, that people want to buy - agriculture, mining/resources, education - that we get out of the way, that we get rid of the red tape, make it easier to do business, get our products out and then boost our efforts in new areas where there's going to be growth opportunities like defence, like space technology. I'm not talking about rockets. I'm talking about the componentry, like advanced manufacturing, and make sure that we're really targeting some stuff.

Ross: That sounds like you want us to get smarter?

Jennifer: Exactly. And do the stuff that people want to buy. And we know that, we know that we're already good at piles of manufacturing. You know Boeing, I mean, most people don’t know this, Boeing's second-largest manufacturing facility outside the US is in Australia, in Victoria and in Queensland. So, let's do more of that. And also, let's focus on our regions a bit more. Let's look at the regions that have got the biggest capacity. That if we get growth in those regions it will actually lift the growth in the economy. And the point I'm making is let's get a bit of purpose. Let's get a bit of focus. To your point, let's get a bit smarter and let's use this time to get ahead of the rest of the world.

Russel Howcroft, co-host 3AW Breakfast: Jennifer, Russ here, we spoke to the Comm Bank CEO Matt Comyn yesterday, who's confident about an Aussie recovery. Are you as buoyed by the show strength from the banks?

Jennifer: Look, I am really confident about the Australian recovery. I think we've got to make sure we do stuff to make it happen even faster because we've got to get more than a million people Russel, back into a job. And of course, we've got to make sure that we stay ahead of the game. But I agree with Matt. I think we've got a huge opportunity. You saw those jobs numbers yesterday, and they show that another 114,000 people found work. We've got to get our act together and we've got to build on the stuff that we're doing and make sure that we get ahead of the rest of the world. Because meanwhile, all around the world, people are having these conversations. How do we get into those Asian markets? How do we promote our products? How do we export more? How do we skill up our people? They're all having those conversations. So, we just got to have them as well. And we've got to make sure that we stay ahead of the game.

Ross: Jennifer, where do we find you? Are you in the leper colony or lucky enough to be outside it?

Jennifer: I'm in Canberra which has its own form of isolation of course on a normal basis.

Ross: You talked about wanting the regions to thrive. We're currently not allowed to go to the regions.

Jennifer: Yeah, look, I think we've got to find a way of managing this virus because we're not going to have a vaccine for quite a long time. Even if someone were to invent it tomorrow, you’ve got to develop it, test it, get it produced, give it to billions of people. So, we've got to get the health story back into some perspective again. We've got to manage local containments, we've got to suppress the community transmission overall. We've got to really make sure we look after vulnerable people and we've got to keep our health system ramped up so it's ready to take really sick people.

Ross: Good on you Jennifer. Jennifer Westacott from The Business Council of Australia.