Statement from BCA President Tony Shepherd on the April 2012 COAG Meeting

Today’s COAG meeting is an example of the federation working well.

The meeting’s commitment to progressing reforms under the six priorities for lifting productivity and competitiveness put forward by yesterday’s COAG Business Advisory Forum will give COAG renewed focus and purpose.

The outcomes should give people confidence that our governments can work together effectively to deliver important outcomes for productivity and competitiveness.

The commitments by COAG to measures to reduce the cost of doing business and to build the skills and capability of our workforce are major wins for jobs and for Australia’s competitiveness.

The landmark decision for the Commonwealth to virtually eliminate double handling in environmental assessments is a huge win for the economy.

This will have a massive positive impact on reducing the cost and time issues associated with investing in and delivering major projects, which in turn will contribute to making Australia much more competitive.

Streamlining environmental assessments and approvals is all about reducing the costs of double handling and unnecessary delays on business and not about reducing environmental protections.

We note COAG has agreed to refer the benchmarking of major project assessment processes against international best practice to heads of Treasury for a potential inquiry by the Productivity Commission.

We strongly support a productivity inquiry into construction costs and processes for approving major projects.

Rising construction costs is a major issue impacting on our competitiveness and our ability to deliver affordable, timely infrastructure to the community.

COAG should be congratulated on the agreement to a new national skills reform package, which will help boost the skills of Australia’s workforce while at the same time improving the quality of vocational education and training provision.

We welcome COAG’s recognition that the time has come to remove inefficient, ineffective and duplicated carbon reduction and energy efficiency programs.

The decision to introduce a national productivity compact, in consultation with the Business Advisory Forum, to set out the principles for effective regulation and reform is very positive.

This is a great opportunity to move to risk-based regulation and rigorous cost–benefit analysis across all our jurisdictions.

As always, the challenge now for COAG is to effectively implement the reforms it has agreed to at today’s meeting.

The Business Council of Australia will continue to work constructively with COAG, including through our ongoing involvement in the COAG Business Advisory Forum.