Speaker: Tim Reed, president of the Business Council of Australia
Event: The Business Council of Australia’s Annual General Meeting
Thank you, Jennifer.
I’d like to also acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Land on which we meet, for me that is the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation and I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.
Well colleagues, I think I can safely say we live in interesting times. With business confidence high, consumer confidence low, consumer spending high, supply constraints creating pressure points across the economy and interest rates continuing to rise, it is challenging right now to get a view on the macroeconomic outlook.
Add to this, the exogenous factors of:
- The war in Ukraine
- A structural transformation of our economy as we decarbonise
- And the ongoing efforts to digitise business and government
and the picture becomes more complex.
Then throw into the mix a new Federal government, which has brought with it renewed vigor for policy reform in many portfolios and we have an environment which I know many of you see as bringing great opportunity, but also comes with some real risks – both at a business level and also for the nation.
In this environment, the BCA, as always, has approached our engagement with the new Albanese government and more broadly with the new parliament in a constructive manner; engaging across all key portfolio areas to ensure our vision of an economically prosperous nation which shares that prosperity with all Australians is not just heard but also understood.
And that furthermore, the critical role that business plays in achieving this outcome is incorporated into all policy.
Whether it be energy, trade, tax, a voice to parliament for indigenous Australians, decarbonisation, the economic empowerment of women, skills and training, planning and environmental regulation, cyber-security or industrial relations, Jennifer and her team have been front and centre engaging with government, the opposition and the cross-bench early and constructively, with the goal to have maximum impact.
While these endeavours have been largely met by a willing partner, by no means does this imply that the BCA agrees with everything the government has put forward.
To call out a couple of specific areas. We’ve been very clear in our position on industrial relations that the benefits that come with the improvements to the Better Off Overall Test and gender equity components of this reform should not be traded off against a broad reaching and dangerous approach to multi-employer bargaining. Particularly when the only case made for this substantive change has been for low-paid workers in government funded industries, an area where some far more direct methods of addressing the needs of workers in those industries would provide a better solution.
We are also being proactive in our response to the challenge of high energy costs which are helping fuel the cost-of-living pressures on Australians.
Recognising this is a complex area and the BCA has a broad and diverse membership, we are working with the sector – users and producers – and the government to minimise any harmful consequences. It is critical to the economy that any measures are limited in impact, sensible and short-term and provide an important bridge to longer term market-based solutions that provide a smoother path to a net zero economy.
We continue to engage with the government with regard to cybersecurity and in particular are seeking a review of what data businesses are required by government to collect. We want settings that encourage businesses to be proactive in managing cyber risks. We believe without this, government legislation risks putting a larger target on Australian businesses.
In addition to our work with the government and the opposition, we have quickly established strong and practical working relationships with the crossbench in both the upper and lower house. This builds on the efforts in the previous parliament and has positioned us as a trusted and independent source of advice and information.
Jennifer and her team have also continued the BCA’s strategy of engaging in with partners wherever we can, over the past six months this has flowed through in our continued leadership position across a range of national and international activities.
In the lead up to the Jobs and Skills Summit we worked closely in the national interest with other business groups including ACCI, Ai Group, COSBOA and the MCA, and a broader set of stakeholders including the ACTU and ACOSS.
We continue to cooperate with other business groups over the government’s industrial relations changes.
Our very fruitful engagement with environmental groups is ongoing, particularly in relation to reform of the EPBC Act and on our commitments to address climate change.
And we continue to build on our efforts to promote business in Australia to our global partners through several important international partnerships, including India.
The BCA led the business delegation to Indonesia on Prime Minister’s Albanese first overseas trip and we returned for the B20 to sign memorandum of understanding with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry alongside the Treasurer and Prime Minister.
And we can be proud that the BCA was chosen as the only business partner for the prestigious Sydney Energy Forum, recognising our significant leadership on addressing climate change which continues.
As we look forward to 2023, we will continue to engage constructively, but also be clear in our views. This includes our assessment of the nation’s current fiscal position, which to us, seems unsustainable. The Treasurer outlined in his recent budget the considerable fiscal challenges that our nation faces, this structural deficit is not just adding to debt but also exacerbating inflation pressures. We believe private sector growth is an important part of the solution, and will be engaging with the Treasurer accordingly.
As always, I’d like to thank all of you for your contribution throughout the year, including the tireless work of all our committee chairs. Jennifer and I remain proud to represent you, and we are grateful that your support of the BCA gives the business community an evidence-based voice that helps shape the nation for the better.
In closing, I’d like to reflect on the BCA Board and the secretariat team. The strength of any organisation lies in its people, and the BCA is no different. I’d like to thank all the Directors who give their time generously to the BCA, often making themselves available at short notice. Particularly I want to thank our longest standing Director, Alan Joyce as he steps down from the Board of the BCA today.
Alan will join Jennifer a bit later for a fireside chat but before then, can I say – on behalf of all members – that Alan, your contribution to the BCA Board over almost a decade - making you the longest serving Director in recent times - has been truly phenomenal.
In addition to his day job running one of Australia’s most important and iconic companies, Alan has been one of the driving forces behind our vision for a stronger Australia, and as a leader in one of the sectors smashed by the pandemic his insights were critical to our response during this period.
His passion for the economic and social wellbeing of this country is matched only by his integrity, work ethic and generosity of spirit. And of course, his sense of humor.
Alan, we will all miss your incredible expertise, experience and insights but we know you will continue to have a voice and a significant presence within the BCA and the broader Australian community.
The BCA secretariat has also changed in the past year. We’re extremely fortunate to welcome Wendy Black, Stephen Walters, Megan Jeremenko as our Head of Policy, Chief Economist and Head of Government Relations respectively – three very significant roles in Jennifer’s team – all who have joined in the last 12 months, welcome.
In light of this significant change over the last 12 months, and of course Jess Wilson’s likely election to the Victorian parliament, a number of members have asked me what we are doing to plan for the future.
Jennifer has been very proactive over the past two years in making sure the structure, talent and culture of the BCA is set up for long-term success. While this work is never complete, the Board is confident the BCA leadership team is well positioned to serve members and the nation going forward. As always, I’d like to thank Jennifer for her proactive work in this regard, as I would in all other parts of her role.
The BCA is extremely fortunate to have such a capable, widely respected leader, whose high energy, intellectual horsepower, talent and commitment allow her to have such high impact in her role; that said both Jennifer and the Board are very conscious that we always need to be prepared for all scenarios.
In partnership with Jennifer, we therefore going to continue to work with outside partners to advance our leadership planning and development; to ensure that the skills mix of the Board remains appropriate going forward and to review the constitution to ensure it remains fit for purpose.
As members would expect, as the BCA heads into its 40th year, this work aims to both manage risk and optimise for the future – with the goal of ensuring the BCA remains a high-performance organisation for decades to come.