Three major employer and business groups today released a joint statement of ambition for this week’s Jobs and Skills Summit, and importantly for the Employment White Paper process to follow.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) outlined jointly their support for the Summit and White Paper which should:
- Build support for the interrelated objectives of strong employment growth, higher incomes growth, improved productivity and enhanced social inclusion.
- Ensure Australia is well equipped for the opportunities and challenges ahead of us – both those that are known and the many that are not known.
- Initiate steps towards achieving genuine progress in meeting these objectives.
The Summit should be followed by a period of strong consultation across the community. While there are clear limits to the breadth of consultation possible at the Jobs and Skills Summit itself, the preparation of the Employment White Paper offers many more opportunities for much broader engagement.
There needs to be strong support built for a focus on lifting productivity which is central to achieving the objectives of higher incomes, opportunities, and improvements in fairness and gender equity.
Substantial progress towards these objectives can and should be made with the Summit as the starting point. At the same time, there should be a healthy recognition of Australia’s achievements and the drivers of success to date.
Australia is an open and relatively wealthy society that has welcomed and provided a home and opportunities for people from around the world. Our average living standards and our life expectancies are among the highest in the world. We have developed sharply redistributive tax and income support arrangements and strong involvement of the public sector in health, education and infrastructure that significantly broaden the benefits of our national economic progress.
The broad policy settings that underwrote Australia’s long period without recession (pre-pandemic) and that have assisted in the resumption of growth since the COVID-19 recession should be retained.
These include an open economy with strong private sector direction of resource allocation; low tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade; openness to international investment; a flexible exchange rate; prudent fiscal policy; and monetary policy managed in line with the objectives of full employment and low inflation by an independent central bank.
Key directions for improvement that can be given momentum for action at the Summit are:
- Greater and more efficient investment in workforce skilling and training which is central to productivity, incomes growth and broadening opportunities.
- Workplace relations arrangements that work to deliver high incomes growth and the flexibility of opportunities for employees, employers and the self-employed that are in demand by modern Australia.
- Improvements in workforce participation and inclusion. Although our participation rates are at near-record highs, there is scope for additional gains. These areas include people whose social and economic participation are inhibited by disadvantage; people aged over 60 where participation faces a range of barriers; people, typically women, whose participation is inhibited by their unpaid caring roles.
- Better equipping Australia for the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead. These include decarbonisation, the ageing of the population, digitalisation and the scope to improve our approach to health and other caring services.
- Harnessing both the power of the private sector and the active development of skills, infrastructure, and efficient and clear regulatory settings by the public sector.
Attributable to Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox:
“The summit is an important step in potentially building a more productive, prosperous and fairer Australia. Agreement at the summit that renewed skilled migration and a wholehearted effort to build our skills base are needed can be key building blocks for our economic well-being. Likewise, there is a lot of common ground in recognising that to build collaboration our workplace relations system needs to be simplified rather than upended. There is obviously much detailed work to be done after the summit in the writing of a White Paper to guide the progress of key policy agreements.”
Media contact: Tony Melville 0419 190 347
Attributable to Andrew McKellar, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive:
“The realignment of the global economy presents significant challenges to simply maintain, let alone improve on, economic growth and the broader wellbeing needed to secure national prosperity. The Jobs and Skills Summit offers a critical opportunity to revitalise productivity, grow pay packets and maintain our strong standards of living.”
Media contact: Jack Quail 02 6270 8020
Attributable to Jennifer Westacott, Business Council chief executive:
“The Summit is a chance to find common ground and agree on the key resets needed to position Australia for the future, but we can’t solve every problem overnight so the process that comes after will be crucial. This is an opportunity to move Australia to the frontier by driving stronger economic performance, making ourselves more competitive and productive, and attracting the investment needed to diversify our industrial base, do new things and create new opportunities".
Media Contact: BCA Media 02 8224 9214