President's address to the Business Council annual dinner

Speaker

Tim Reed, incoming Business Council President

Delivery

8.00pm, 20 November 2019

Prime Minister, to your parliamentary colleagues, BCA members and guests, it’s a great honour and privilege to be elected today as the new President of the Business Council of Australia.

Our thoughts tonight start with the Australians battling horrendous bushfires.

Many companies are contributing to the relief effort and I urge all of us tonight to continue to step up in any way we can.

I’d like to acknowledge all the former presidents of the BCA who are here tonight:

  • Catherine Livingstone
  • Tony Shepherd
  • Michael Chaney
  • And of course, in particular, Grant King for his tremendous leadership over the past three years

It is not lost on me, that those are certainly some big shoes to fill.

It would be an understatement to say the past three years has been a challenging time for business.

Through this time, however, Grant has steadfastly retained the Business Council’s focus on policies to ensure Australia is a great place to live and work.

But there is no point in having good policy if we cannot explain it or make it real for our community.

Grant has been instrumental in the creation and success of our Strong Australia program through which, over the past two years, we’ve met, listened to and spoken with thousands of Australians across all states – with a particular focus on regional Australia - about how we can achieve what we all want, a stronger Australia.

I look forward to continuing to get around the country with other CEOs and talking with people in the regions, listening to what they have to say and explaining the role of business.

I would like you to join with me in thanking Grant.

I also want to thank Jennifer for her policy leadership, courage and tireless advocacy.

I am honoured to take up this position.  I thought long and hard about it, and accepted the opportunity for one simple reason: I believe passionately in the positive role that responsible businesses play in our community.

This is the role of job creator. 

As we bring new and improved products and services to market it is the role of innovator. 

It is the role of skill builder, and career maker.

It is the role of serving communities – of building much needed infrastructure and providing vital services, both in our cities and across our regions. 

And it’s also the role of taxpayer, as part of the value of the entrepreneurship we unleash inside our businesses, is collected to fund services in our community that, as Australians, we hold dear.

To put it plainly, I do not believe we can have a prosperous and thriving community without a strong, competitive business sector. 

Prime Minister, you have made it clear that it needs to be the role of business to do the bidding of business.  I agree.  And in taking on this position, I will be proud to add my voice whenever and wherever I can to promote the critical role that responsible businesses play in our nation, every day; and to advocate for policies that allow more businesses to have a more positive impact on the lives of more Australians.

There are four main priorities I plan to focus on as President.

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.

At our recent BCA Summit, Ginni Rometty commented that many of the new jobs at IBM have a half-life of just 3 to 5 years; Satya Nadella has said that in the years to come every business will be a software business, yet at the same time we are short in some critical trade-based skills. In this world, we must ensure our training and education systems are fit-for-purpose and focused on lifelong learning; and complimented by a skills based immigration system.

My second priority  will be to anchor the pursuit of tax and regulatory policies to a long-term focus of Australia’s prosperity.

There are competitive alternatives to investing in Australia so we must be as competitive as we can and remain an attractive destination to do business.

Prime Minister, whether it be working with your government directly, through COAG, or internationally with respect to delivering global agreements, either new trade deals or environmental agreements such as the Paris accord, I intend to do my best to ensure the BCA is a constructive partner.

My third priority is ensuring that we don’t just promote the role of big business, but of all businesses, and in doing so we end the conversation of big versus small.

I come from a small business family, and MYOB the business which until recently I led, was based on a vision of giving small business the capacity to focus on what they love rather than doing the books.

The fact is big and small businesses are an ecosystem and their ability to thrive depends on the success of one another; and in this role I will continue to strive to ensure we act as a unified business community.

And, my fourth priority will be to ensure the BCA is helping business earn the trust of the community, and that this mindset is reflected in all the work we do.

If we’ve taken anything from the past couple of years it is that business needs to first make sure the basics work - having products and services that are fit for purpose, representing them honestly and clearly, and acting with integrity, asking first what we should do, rather than what we could do.

One way the BCA is working to build trust is through the creation of our Australian supplier payment code to pay small business on time.

Prime Minister, since you were here last year and spoke about this issue, I’m pleased to report that the code has grown to cover all Australia’s major retailers as well as the companies at the centre of the nation’s largest supply chains; increasing the annual revenue of companies covered by the code by 50 per cent to just over $680 billion.

The BCA was founded to advocated for policies that will improve the lives of all Australians, and that is what we do best. In today’s world, while business needs to comment on a range of issues that are important to the community – and we will –the weight of our voice here at the BCA will be squarely focused on the support of policies that lead to sustained and sustainable growth, that improves the lives of all Australians.

Prime Minister, congratulations on your election victory earlier this year. While there is much more work to be done, Australia stands in an enviable position.

In particular, we at the BCA have strongly supported the government’s hard work in returning the budget to surplus. As we meet tonight on the cusp of this being accomplished, I’d like to assure you that none of us here underestimate the difficulty of this challenge nor the importance of this achievement. 

In the last two years alone, 560,000 jobs have been created.

We have Free Trade Agreements with China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia as well as multilateral deals such as the TPP-11 and soon the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

These are bringing down trade barriers and opening doors for Australia’s exports into new markets.

And, we are heading to a personal income tax system where 94 per cent of Australians will face no more than a 30 per cent marginal tax rate.

This is an important reform that puts more money into the pockets of people and helps simplify the tax system.

We thank you for joining us tonight, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison