Reform Born of Mutual Respect

Herald Sun

By Graham Bradley

President, Business Council of Australia

As we approach a federal election, it’s time for Australia’s leaders to promote the essential connection between economic success and community prosperity. They need to respect the capacity of Australian voters to understand and back what’s required to deliver on both of these objectives.

The Business Council of Australia’s policy benchmarks for the election go beyond economic reform to promote all the interrelated drivers of community wellbeing, including the quality of our built and natural environment.

We call on political leaders to reinforce what Australia has done well, to be honest in addressing some serious limitations and to do better in ensuring all Australians are both part of, and enjoy, our nation’s prosperity.

This requires an open, honest and consultative style of leadership that respects and promotes the importance of a vibrant business sector to underpin our economic recovery and support our social goals.

This is not just about pointing the finger at politicians. Business also has a responsibility to better communicate its role, to listen and respond to community expectations, and to build our contribution in areas the community most cares about, for example health.

Health is a policy area where the business agenda and the community’s agenda clearly intersect. It’s an important issue for the election and there is no more important example of the need for courage and honesty from our political leaders.

The health sector accounts for 10 per cent of our GDP and, on some projections, that proportion will increase to 20 per cent within 30 years.

The prevention and management of chronic disease, now consuming 70 per cent of total health spending, calls for new models of care.

Yet, unlike other big sectors of our economy, we haven’t put a spotlight on how well the sector is actually working from a hardnosed economic perspective.

An important part of this is to reform funding and incentive structures to encourage better quality and efficiency, but also to encourage healthier habits, practices and lifestyles.

It also means we all have to accept different responsibilities, as individuals and as social institutions that shape and influence the way Australians live and work. That includes the business sector.

I am confident that Australians, honestly consulted, will back policies that are sustainable and realistic. They will understand that ignoring realities in health reform won’t make them go away.

The same goes for a more traditional policy focus for the BCA – tax reform.

The Henry review provided a blueprint for reform but the response from both major political parties has been narrow. So much more value can be drawn from the review through an open and transparent consultation process that gives Australians confidence.

The reality is that only confident businesses will invest, grow and hire. Only a confident community will start families, buy houses, and invest in their own health, education and training.

As we approach this important election, the BCA hopes our leaders will have a confident story to tell that reflects the fact Australia can and should pursue economic success and community prosperity at the same time.