Playing to our strengths: National Press Club address

Speaker

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive, Business Council of Australia

Venue

National Press Club, Canberra

Delivery

12.30pm, 26 November 2019

I would like to start by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land we are meeting on today, the Ngunawal and Ngambri people, and pay respect to their elders past and present.

Welcome, and thank you for joining me today.

For the past two years, the chief executives of some of Australia's largest employers and I have been travelling around Australia talking with local communities from Townsville to Geelong and from Bathurst to Cairns.

And our outer metropolitan areas such as Western Sydney and Broadmeadows.

We’ve badged this initiative Strong Australia because we do not believe we can have a strong country, if our regions are not strong.

But what has struck me as I’ve met with communities is a sense that we are living in two different countries.

I am not seeking to diminish the role of our major cities.

But it does sometimes feel like there are two conversations, two perspectives in Australia.

It sometimes feels like our direction is being determined by the few dictating to the many.

People in our regions – and I’m including those outer metropolitan areas - feel their views are neglected and they struggle to be heard.

We are at a tipping point in Australia.

We must make sure the economic story, the social story and the opportunity story is about all of Australia, not just some parts of it.

We must unleash the potential of our people and places across the whole of the country.

My job today is to play back to you what we found, what people told us and what we can do.

We did not find an anti-business agenda.

We found small and big business working together, powering up their local communities.

Small and big business creating the large projects to drive the country forward.

But there is uncertainty.

People asked where the next wave of jobs will come from.

People are worried if they will have the skills to stay working as the world changes.

People are concerned their wages are not keeping pace with the cost of living – particularly business owners telling us their energy bills are stopping them from hiring their next worker.

People are frustrated some places are just not getting ahead.

And, so many people asked how the grip of red tape could be loosened because it is bogging down their ability to run their businesses and hire more people.

The people I have met know we live in a magnificent country, and they are proud of Australia.

So, today I am calling on all of us to tap into their aspirations and their ideas and listen to their frustrations, so we can start building the momentum for a stronger Australia.

We can build that momentum by playing to our strengths in the areas where we already excel and that will continue to power our economy.

We can build it by rethinking industry policy – that is the role of government and business to drive the new jobs and new businesses, particularly by harnessing technology.

We can build momentum by finetuning our economic policy settings to make sure Australia is competitive and open for business.

And finally, we can build it by fundamentally rethinking the way we plan and prioritise infrastructure, create jobs and provide services in all the places of Australia.

I have never been more convinced that Australia possess all the essential ingredients to supercharge our economy.

But I have also never been more certain that we must do everything we can to actively pursue higher growth.

Our economy will not become stronger by doing nothing.

It will not happen by accident.

But our starting point, as the Prime Minister pointed out last week, is the envy of many parts of the world.

No one should underestimate the important buffer that twenty-eight years without a recession has given us.

Our economy continues to grow.

We are creating jobs - hundreds and thousands of them.

Our budget is coming back to surplus– and we should not walk away from that.

While large by Australian standards, we are not burdened with a debt that cannot be paid back.

We are spending record dollars in infrastructure that can ease congestion and unleash growth.

However, the economy is not growing as fast as it could.

The implications of that over a long period of time are:

  • Lower wages
  • Living standards lower than people expect and deserve
  • Less revenue over time for governments to pay for the services we need and expect
  • And, more vulnerability to economic shocks.

Our fundamentals are sound.

Our opportunities are enormous.

Now is the time to take the actions to unlock the next wave of new jobs, new businesses, more exports, and higher wages.

We are in the right place, with the right products and services, and the right skills at the right time.

Let me start by telling you the stories of the places and the people that I think can drive our country forward.

We have seen small and medium sized businesses doing incredible things like Australian Performance Vehicles near Broadmeadows which used to have three customers – Ford, Holden and Toyota.

At the end of the car manufacturing industry, they reinvented themselves to become the world’s leading exporter of seatbelts for military vehicles.

They now employ about sixty people.

Everywhere I have been there are people innovating and finding new ways of doing business.

And what really powers them up is their partnerships with big business.

From Manbulloo Mangoes in Australia’s north which has an agreement with Coles, and thanks to a free trade deal can now export its mangoes into South Korea where they sell for up to twenty-two-dollars each.

They are using technology to track a mango from the tree to the table and guarantee it has come from Australia.

We have seen the fabulous Humpty Doo Barramundi farm continuing to expand because of its partnership with Woolworths.

We have seen Farm Foods in Geelong make the rissoles and sausages we buy in our major supermarkets. They have just begun exporting to the United States.

We have seen massive projects like the construction of Shell’s floating LNG Prelude plant off the coast of Broome providing jobs in Darwin at an enormous onshore supply base.

And the partnership between GE and AGL to build one of Australia’s largest windfarms near Toowoomba that will power two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand homes when it is finished.

This is providing jobs for local contractors, pumping money into nearby towns and providing diversified income for farmers, particularly during the drought.

We have also seen the power of imagination and innovation around the country.

 

Like the University of South Australia’s special effects students who worked on Game of Thrones – the greatest TV show ever made – and many of the other projects at the Lot Fourteen innovation precinct in Adelaide.

What we saw time and time again was the multiplier effect of big investors transforming local communities.

When Rio Tinto put its fly-in, fly-out workers in Busselton suddenly cafes opened, supermarkets were upgraded, work on a new housing development started, and contractors found work.

The city was buzzing again.

I could go on for hours about the optimism we have witnessed and the people we have met and will continue to meet.

They are the unsung heroes of the Australian economy.

If we could just unleash the potential of our people and places, we would unleash the full potential of the country.

It’s just waiting to happen.

So, the first thing we need to do is rethink the way we plan and prioritise around key places.

Australia has become stuck in a pattern of projects, rather than places.

We need to identify the places around Australia that can make the greatest economic contribution to their regions, their states or territories, and the whole country.

It’s not the job of the Business Council to provide a short-list, that’s the task of government.

But we should look to places that:

  • Have nearby gateway infrastructure such as an airport or major transport routes. 
  • Are home to one or two existing and successful industries and have the capacity to attract more investment.
  • Are strategically important such as Darwin and Cairns.
  • Are close to major power grids.
  • Have a university and a TAFE that will need to work together to drive the new skills agenda.
  • Have quality health services that can support an expanding population.
  • Have the capacity to increase the supply of housing and industrial land.
  • Have an appetite for more people to take pressure and congestion off the major cities and in doing so create economic activity in their region.

We need to start with ten places in addition to the existing city deals, and use the city deal framework which has been very successful.

 

We can then sit down with those communities, and get the ball rolling.

They need to identify:

  • What their growth opportunities are
  • What industries they could attract
  • What infrastructure they need over a long period of time
    • I’m talking about all infrastructure including schools, hospitals and transport connections
    • And, they need to determine the staging of that

We cannot spend twelve months arguing about which places should be chosen. Using my criteria, the places select themselves.

 

Not every place can be selected, and we cannot make decisions based on electoral politics.

Let’s just get on with it. 

Business also has to do its part for the places of Australia.

I really do call on corporate Australia, as part of our Strong Australia program, to build on its investment in regional Australia.

Like the four-hundred-and-fifty people in Ballarat employed by IBM as part of its partnership with the Federation University.

Like Telstra with its specialist services in lots of locations delivering those technology skills.

Business should look at its investment, its processing requirements, its data centres, its back and front of house activities – and say ‘why can’t we do those things in regional Australia?’

 

Business should do the maths on what it would take to go to Bathurst, not Bangalore.

And governments need to remove the barriers to them doing it.

Of course, the flip side of a place based approach is the danger that some communities will continue to struggle.

It is our collective responsibility – business, communities and governments – to sit down and work out how to help the places that just cannot get ahead.

Now, I would like us to think about what we call industry policy.

What I mean by that is the role of government, the role of business and the policy settings that drive industry structure and export markets, in particular how we develop new industries, new jobs, and new businesses. 

I am almost nervous to even use the two words ‘industry policy’ because it provokes such division.

In many cases, bad industry policy has steered us in the wrong direction.

Now is the time to change our focus:

  • From protectionism to creating the best environment for business to succeed. 
  • From trying to save individual companies to concentrating on building our strengths.
  • From wrongly viewing industry policy as a political tool instead of an economic enabler.
  • From a command and control model to a partnership model.
  • From trying to stop change to preparing and adapting to change.
  • And, from fearing failure to taking calculated risks.

The global economy continues to evolve.

Technology is creating new markets, new products and new services.

The demand for specialist skills is increasingly dictating advanced manufacturing, not cheap labour costs.

End-to-end production - making the whole car or whole plane in one factory in one country - is happening less and less.

This is our greatest opportunity.

For many businesses across Australia, their future lies in being a quality and specialist supplier in a global supply chain.

They will be able to focus on high-end premium export products.

Ferra Engineering in Brisbane is providing intricate components for Boeing’s Loyal Wingman program in Australia.

It is Boeing’s largest investment in new unmanned aircraft outside the US.

In its simplest form, industry policy should focus on building on our strengths, and leveraging off them.

It should enable Australia to build momentum in new areas.

For this, we need to have in place the right technology platforms, skills and expertise. 

Industry policy should also centre on our emerging strengths and capabilities that can cut across all industries and start with Australia’s natural advantages.

In other words, deliver our world-beating edge.

Let me explain.

So, how do we play to our strengths.

For starters, we need to remember existing industries that power our economy like mining, oil and gas and agriculture are not the old economy.

In the case of mining and oil and gas, our resources giants have evolved into manufacturing and technology companies.

Resource management is a capability that powers up many companies across many industries.

It involves highly skilled people using efficient machinery, continually innovating and harnessing new technology.

BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue are among the lowest cost iron ore producers in the world.

Using technology and working smarter, Australia extracts iron ore and gets it to port better than anyone else.

The LNG industry has supercharged parts of the Australian economy.

Think of these projects-  Prelude and the North-West Shelf - and think of these companies – Woodside, Chevron and Shell.

This industry is providing a highly efficient energy source to the rest of the world.

Our resources industry also generates an incredible value and supply chain - mining services, engineering and construction services.

Australian companies are now providing services across the world for the globe’s biggest projects – Lendlease, WorleyParsons, Transurban and WSP.

This capability gives us the platform to explore other resource opportunities.

Hydrogen is a breakthrough we must make because it has so many widespread benefits across the economy.

We can also do more with our rare earths such as lithium which will power the batteries of the future.

Should Australia be doing more value adding? If it makes sense, sure.

But don’t underestimate how efficiently these industries are run and how technology-driven they are.

We can only play in supply chains where we can compete and that has to be at the core of industry policy.

As supply chains become more fragmented and technological skills become the determining factor, that value adding opportunity will get better and better for Australia if we can get the policy settings right.

So, how do we play to our strengths in these areas?

This will mostly be driven by macroeconomic settings which I will talk about later but there is some urgency to these settings because there are competitive alternatives to buying Australian resources.

 

But there are some practical things, particularly around major projects, that we can do.

We should look at making sure enterprise agreements run for the life of a greenfield project.

In terms of planning approvals for major projects, we should look at why multiple agencies, with multiple timeframes, with multiple requests cause delay after delay.

The guidelines for an environmental impact statement must be clear – if a major project complies, it should be a complying development.

We welcome the Morrison government’s first steps to partner with the McGowan government to develop an online system to reduce approval times for major projects.

We encourage other states to adopt a streamlined approach where companies can lodge a single application online and track its progress.

 

You also have to question the lack of common sense of our appeals system which allows a small group of people in a completely different part of the country to disrupt and stop a major project that has absolutely nothing to do with them.

These are people who have never lived in these communities and are never going to live in these communities telling a regional community what projects they can and cannot have.

Now to a specific idea on gas – this is the obvious transition fuel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the obvious resource we have to help other countries reduce their emissions.

Gas represents huge opportunities for jobs and regional development.

Yet we are holding it back.

So, today we repeat our call for state governments to review unscientific bans on exploration and development of gas reserves.

 

Let me turn to agriculture, another sector that people describe as an old economy.

This sector is constantly adopting advances in technology.

Despite the challenges of drought, productivity gains in agriculture have outpaced the rest of the economy over the past couple of decades.

Farming communities are constantly finding new ways of doing things better.

New trade agreements have brought down trade barriers, and Australia has a reputation for clean, green and safe produce.

We are sitting on the doorstep of a middle class in Asia made up of our hundreds of millions of people ready to pay premium prices for premium products – many of which will be manufactured.

 

Think about exporting our value added dairy products like yoghurt and cheese, and selling lamb cutlets and scotch fillets for more than fifty-dollars a kilo in lucrative overseas markets.

The potential of agribusiness in Australia is enormous.

The data does not tell the full story of the farmers and producers around the country who are supporting hundreds of jobs in regional communities.

So, what can we do in agriculture?

The taskforce looking at the regulatory burden on agribusiness should map the life of a product from inception to final destination.

It needs to identify the bottlenecks, duplication and costs of red tape that could be stripped away because this is what people have told me - it’s just too difficult to get things out of the country.

A pragmatic breakthrough for agriculture would be to stop looking at agriculture, water policy and drought strategy in isolation.

So, today I’m calling for the CSIRO and the government to jointly prepare a white paper to examine:

  • Water infrastructure
  • Cropping cycles and crop resilience
  • Environmentally sensitive ways of managing water storage
  • Water regulation
  • And carbon farming and sequestration

Every time I meet with the CSIRO – and I see Larry Marshall over there – Larry and his team have these amazing ideas about how to fix some of the biggest problems we face.

 

So, why don’t we ask them to help fix this one?

Because it breaks my heart as I go around this country and I see the shocking devastation of this drought – and knowing that we will have another one.

We have to turn a corner with a strategy that allows our agriculture sector to thrive, not just survive over the long term.

So, playing to our strengths means evolving our existing industries and developing new ones.

I want to turn to the new areas that are going to power up the economy and create new and highly-skilled jobs.

I want to acknowledge the trailblazing work of Catherine Livingstone whose intellectual drive put the concept of delivering growth through innovation and skills on the national agenda.

 

I believe the first thing we must do to is to make sure our technology platforms such as 5-G and network connections, are the best they can be.

Because without this, Australia cannot stay ahead.

We need a serious national strategy that addresses planning delays, shared access to digital infrastructure, and pricing.

To succeed in emerging and frontier areas, Australia also needs to develop our foundational capabilities.

We are already good at some of them, and in others we have an opportunity to excel.

The reason I am using the word capabilities is to stop us thinking about particular sectors or companies which always brings a pointless and futile ‘picking winners’ debate where we end up doing absolutely nothing.

 

We need to build our capabilities so they underpin all sectors across the economy.

A snapshot of these capabilities includes:

  • Blockchain
    • which can allow us to track the products I’ve spoken about today to make sure they cannot be counterfeited and we can guarantee the Australian brand.
  • Quantum computing
    • which will be able to solve in minutes – instead of centuries - the world’s most complex problems such as detecting and preventing life-threatening diseases.
    • We are at risk of losing our head start here unless we get some energy and focus.
  • Aerospace and defence technologies
    • so we can leverage off the two-hundred-billion-dollars that the government is putting into these industries and power up new related businesses.
  • Autonomous design and automation
    • which will be the future of transport systems and manufacturing.
  • Battery technology and energy systems
    • which will allow us to store and dispatch massive quantities of renewable energy and reduce emissions and power costs.
  • Additive manufacturing in other words 3-D printing
    • which is transforming manufacturing and production systems, particularly in medical devices.
  • Composite and hybrid materials
    • which will be how your table, your car and your plane is made in the future.
  • And our incredible services economy
    • Particularly education exports and where we should explore new markets in wealth management and superannuation.

Frankly, if we are not trying to be as good as we can in these capabilities, we will be left behind.

Our traditional strengths such as mining, agriculture and oil and gas are also going to need these capabilities in order to scale up and stay competitive.

So, what do we need to get this right?

We need to make sure we are investing enough in research and development.

 

We currently spend, as a share of GDP, less on research and development than many other countries, and our spending is falling.

But the first thing we need to do is a stocktake of our spending on grants, tax incentives, and business and university collaboration

  • Are we spending it on the areas that are likely to deliver the greatest returns?
  • Are we spending it on the areas that are likely to have the greatest potential or where we have an existing advantage?
  • Is our spending focused so we can scale up?

And, then we need to make the decisions quickly to reallocate that money to areas of greatest potential.

This should include the projects identified in the growth centres where experts have pinpointed the areas of greatest potential that may need additional funding to really get going.

This will require actual decision making.

It will require stopping some things and doing others.

And, of course, that is always the greatest dilemma of public policy but we have to do it. 

To use the scientific expression, energy follows focus.

Now, I know I’m always the person who says stop fiddling with the R and D tax incentive

  • but if you have fiddled around with it and it is not working
  • you have to fiddle around with it again and get it to work.

Companies who have a very big focus on research and development tell me:

  • the tax incentive is not driving collaboration between universities and government
  • the spending cap is too low
  • we are running the risk that big companies will go somewhere else to innovate
  • and the administrative burden is too complex and costly

We have to fix the system if it is not working.

Business needs to step up here.

Business needs to take on more PhD students, have more structured relationships with universities, and have more relationships with the CSIRO.

Another practical idea would be to look at our standards and approvals.

Why does it take longer to get a medical device approved in Australia but less time in a similar country?

The final thing we need to do to regain our focus is to think about precincts.

Think of it this way – the area in Melbourne where the MCG, Rod Laver Arena and AAMI Park are located is a sporting precinct.

It brings together a host of common activities supported by a network of transport connections. It is a magnet for sports lovers.

Now think of precincts for technologies and new industries.

We have some of these around the country – Deakin University’s campus near Geelong specialising in new materials and Fishermen’s Bend specialising in aviation parts.

I have the great honour of chairing the Western City and Aerotropolis Authority which has the responsibility for master-planning the Western Parkland City.

This city around Penrith and St Marys will be home to one-point-five million people.

It will have the Aerotropolis which will be Australia’s leading advanced manufacturing and defence precinct, creating new jobs and new industries.

It will also have an agribusiness precinct that will see products shipped from the paddock to the plate in Asia within thirty-six-hours.

And, it will be adjacent to Australia’s newest airport running twenty-four-hours a day with access to these markets in Asia that I have been talking about.

The opportunity in Western Sydney off the back of a twenty-billion-dollar infrastructure spend is colossal.

Two hundred thousand new jobs will be created – jobs for local kids in the region.

 

New industries and giant investors like Hitachi, GE and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are coming to Western Sydney to not just power up the region, but power up NSW and Australia.

My final comment on precincts is that we cannot have hundreds of them in a country with over twenty-five million people.

I fear if we have too many we dilute our potential and we will not get precincts to scale.

As you’ve heard, I’ve outlined how Australia can take the steps now to generate the additional jobs, the new industries, and new businesses that will make a difference to people’s lives.

Now, let me turn to the macroeconomic settings that will drive us forward.

We need greater focus, purpose, and we need to double down.

 

We must make Australia more attractive to investment and an easier country to do business.

We must skill up our people.

We must get our climate and energy settings right.

And we must continue to build the infrastructure to power a modern economy.

Let me turn to each of these briefly.

If you can’t get investment into Australia, you cannot get it into Bathurst.

You can’t get it into Cairns or Townsville.

UK business leaders and economists are expressing absolute horror at Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to lift the UK’s corporate rate from nineteen per cent to twenty-six per cent.

 

Even with a hike, it would still be four percentage points lower than ours at thirty per cent.

Instead of being aghast at our globally uncompetitive rate, Australia chose to walk away from attempts to bring it in line with other countries.

Well, we cannot keep walking away from the problem of private sector investment.

So, in the absence of a reduction in the company tax rate, we continue to call for a broad-based investment allowance that would give businesses a bonus deduction on all new investments.

I cannot tell you how many businesses I saw around Australia where I thought ‘gee, an investment allowance would really help these guys’.

Such as Farm Foods in Geelong who told us they would be able to upgrade their meat processing equipment and really ramp up production.

They said a bonus deduction would free up cash to support their export plans, give workers improved skills, and employ more people.

And, Manbulloo Mangoes told us it would give them easier access to capital so they could expand their business and explore new export markets.

The other huge impediment to investment is poorly designed and inefficient regulation.

The Prime Minister has recently made some excellent announcements in this space to reduce the burden on Australians.

We welcome a simpler business registry system so businesses are not wasting time on duplicated paperwork, and can instead focus more on growing and investing.

As well as the government’s move to a state-of-the-art digital system for export certificates.

This will eliminate the need for the antiquated system of waiting for a special printer to produce a special certificate that in some cases has to be mailed to a business before their goods can leave Australia.

But, of course, more work is needed.

Business knows it must make the case for reform and explain how any changes will improve the lives of Australians around the entire country.

But we also need policy makers and regulators to be more aware of the ever-increasing compliance costs that result from poorly designed regulation.

You have no idea how much regulation dominates people’s thinking around Australia.

We are doing a campaign on red tape and we are calling for people to give us their examples.

When I speak to people they say ‘Jennifer, it costs me heaps just to put somebody on.’

A small business has to navigate multiple awards, multiple licences, and multiple restrictions before they can get their products into markets.

Why does a panel beater who works in the ACT have to jump through regulatory hoops to have their trade licence recognised mere kilometres away in Queanbeyan, NSW?

It’s great to see the government taking this seriously.

Their regulation taskforce will look across whole sectors, rather than just particular rules.

We will be giving them examples and undertake to explain to the community the need for changes.

 

In this whole regulation debate, Australians do need to ask why does it cost more to ship products to Tasmania than Hong Kong?

Why is it cheaper to produce some things in Europe and ship them back to Australia than produce them in Australia?

And we need to modernise our workplace relations system.

I repeat my call for a meeting between employers and the union movement to sit down to address the enterprise bargaining system which has helped to drive higher productivity and wage growth but is now slowly collapsing in front of us.

The government’s workplace relations bills before parliament are the platform to get the enterprise system back on track.

And, we will also be responding very constructively to the discussion paper process the government is undertaking.

But make no mistake – the current workplace relations system is not going to drive the new jobs, the new industries and the new opportunities around the country that I’ve talked about.

Now let’s turn to skilling our people.

This has two elements.

The first is that we must prepare Australians with the skills and capabilities they need as technology continues to reshape the way we live and work.

In this world, we must ensure our training and education systems are fit-for-purpose and focused on lifelong learning; and complemented by a skills based immigration system.

I applaud Rio Tinto’s announcement earlier this week of a ten-million-dollar-program over four years working with the education and innovation sector to fast track the development of the skills students need for a digital future.

The last two times I’ve spoken here at the press club, I’ve highlighted the importance of skills and the future of work.

It is good to see we are making progress.

We have had an inquiry into vocational education and training, we have a National Skills Commission, and a National Careers Institute.

For the first time in ages, we have a single point of focus for how we develop careers.

So, let’s build on this.

One of the first jobs for the careers institute should be to build a single online platform for information about post-secondary education and skills.

This would provide all the information students and workers need at their fingertips about courses, cost and career prospects.

 

Business has to drive that very hard, providing information about career pathways.

We need to step up nationally on careers development.

Consider this – not every high school in Australia has a specialist careers advisor.

I also believe the new skills commission has to undertake the task of evaluating the true cost of training and make this publicly available.

They should start with undertaking a costing exercise in industries like engineering and nursing that exist in both VET and higher education.

This is the first stage of creating the platform for a lifelong skills account.

We continue to advocate for an account that Australians could access during their lives to undertake the modules, courses and microcredentials that are right for their individual skills and training needs.

On skilled migration, the government’s Global Talent Scheme has been successful in allowing highly skilled migrants to fill specialist skills gaps in Australia.

They also help transfer skills and knowledge by training Australian workers.

So, why don’t we use the scheme to carve out classes of workers, not just companies, to power up the country.

For example, cyber and IT development workers who come from Five Eyes countries.

Now, I want to address the issue of energy and climate.

In Bathurst shop owners told us they turn up to work in winter with beanies and parkas on because they cannot afford to turn on their heating.

As a nation, we have to do three things together – make energy more affordable, more reliable and reduce emissions.

Australia is making progress and we must continue to invest in new technologies that will allow us to transition to a lower carbon economy.

As I’ve been out on Strong Australia visits, I have seen Australian businesses everywhere already taking significant action in their day-to-day operations:

  • Coles and Woolworths have installed new refrigeration systems to improve energy efficiency.
  • Bunnings has a solar-powered store in Alice Springs.

Australia has one of the world’s highest uptakes of household rooftop solar, with more than twenty per cent of homes installing panels.

Our focus needs to be global, it needs to be driven by technology, and it needs to be practical.

And finally, to infrastructure where we have started to make progress but we can never take our foot off the pedal.

We must make sure we make it easier for products to get to export markets.

We need to connect our regional communities with things like the Inland Rail, reduce congestion in our cities, and enable our regions to grow.

The focus of infrastructure planning needs to be on a long pipeline of place based initiatives, not one-off projects.

And, let’s never forget that infrastructure doesn’t exist as a fiscal stimulus, it exists to underpin the economy and to help enable growth.

We are living in a new world.

A world grappling with the pace of technological change.

A world driven by a fundamental realignment of economic power.

Many developed nations are struggling with these global shifts and we are seeing the resulting political fallout.

This county has the opportunity to do better because we have a good economy and strong institutions.

And what we are also blessed with - is this astonishing potential of the people and places I have talked about today.

We must now take the practical and incremental steps to move the country forward by playing to our strengths.

This is how we drive the next wave of jobs, new businesses, new industries, new export markets, and higher wages across the whole country.

 

Business is at the centre of that equation.

And I have given you example after example of how it is private enterprise working in and with local communities and working with government that is powering up opportunity around the country.

But to realise the country’s potential, business cannot continue to let the community down.

Some parts of the business community must double down on looking after their customers, their employees, their suppliers, their shareholders, and acting with integrity.

Australians deserve businesses they can trust.

But make no mistake - a country that produces a rolling series of anti-business policies driven by understandable anger and resentment will go backwards.

 

There is too much at stake.

It’s not about what happens in the boardrooms in Barangaroo or Collins Street.

What’s at stake is whether a kid in Penrith can start thinking about a career in advanced manufacturing close to their home instead of travelling hours to and from work each day.

What’s at stake is whether Townsville can become a magnet for investment so a small business owner can keep their doors open and hire more workers.

So a kid in one of the highest youth unemployment areas has a future.

What’s at stake is whether Farm Foods can afford to upgrade their equipment, explore additional export markets and put more people on.

We have the opportunity to unleash the aspirations of Australians around the length and breadth of this country so we can stay the greatest place on earth.

Because what I have seen as I’ve travelled around this country are the two absolute truths that define our society:

  • That there is strength in prosperity
  • Fairness through opportunity.

Thank you.