Statement on the Prime Minister’s Press Club Speech

“The Prime Minister’s focus on improving Australia’s competitiveness and lifting productivity, including a 2 per cent annual productivity target, is a welcome response to issues the Business Council has been raising for some time. The test as always will be whether all government policies are geared towards decisive action to achieve real results,” Business Council of Australia President Tony Shepherd said.

“What will be needed to achieve the Prime Minister’s goals is a coherent plan and action on the ground in the critical areas including tax, regulation, infrastructure and energy policy.

“All of the policy areas touched on by the Prime Minister are among the issues that the BCA has been discussing with the community in the development and finalisation of our long-term economic action plan, which will be released later this month,” Mr Shepherd said

“Highlighting Australia’s opportunities and challenges is the easy part, but today’s news that unemployment has ticked up to 5.7 per cent, and youth unemployment is unacceptably high, reinforces the importance of getting on with the more difficult job of taking action to grow the economy and jobs by lifting competitiveness and productivity.

“The BCA’s economic action plan sets out for all sides of politics in this election year the critical actions that must be taken now and over the next decade.

“Mr Rudd’s acknowledgement of the impacts of high energy costs will be welcomed by the community, including businesses that are struggling to stay competitive. The first step the government can take to ease this burden is to lower the carbon price to the international level and wind back the RET,” Mr Shepherd said.

“The Prime Minister is right that labour market rigidities and business productivity are issues for the whole nation, not just business. While productivity improvements are made at the firm level, the Fair Work Act is impeding business capacity to lift productivity, adapt and compete in a vastly more competitive world.

“The commitment to tackling problems that are slowing the delivery of critically important green fields projects is welcome. But if the government is serious about this it must ensure that where agreement cannot be reached between employers and unions in a timely manner, business has the capacity to request the Fair Work Commission establish agreements that meet industry standards. Australia can no longer to afford to pay above market rates for labour just because it is a new agreement.

“The call for a new approach to regulation from all levels of government is another positive sign for businesses of all sizes, but the real test will be whether bad regulation is removed and there is genuine adherence to good policy process involving risk based assessment and real consultation with business.

“Mr Rudd’s pledge to work towards one single integrated environment assessment system is a start,” he said.

Mr Shepherd said that business was pleased to hear the Prime Minister talking about important economic issues. “Any hesitance we may have comes from the reality that we’ve been pointing to these issues for a long time and very little serious action has been taken to address emerging weaknesses in the Australian economy.

“This is why the BCA has developed our economic plan to help turn good intentions into definitive actions,” he said.

For further information contact:
Scott Thompson, Director, Media and Public Affairs
Business Council of Australia
Telephone (03) 8664 2664 | Mobile 0403 241 128