“Amid global economic turmoil this budget steadies the ship and sets the groundwork for reform to drive economic growth in the May budget,” Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.
“This is a cautious and careful budget that avoids making our inflation problem worse.
“This is a crucial first step to restoring our budget position and building our national resilience.
“We welcome investments to boost productivity and participation through skills, education, childcare and expanding Paid Parental Leave.
“We strongly support the government’s comprehensive skills package and migration announcement. These measures mean we can start to tackle our labour shortages while building the skills of the future which will be essential to attracting new industries and growing wages.
“We are pleased to see a substantial reduction in the forecast deficit this year but it is strong and successful businesses in key sectors that continue to do the heavy lifting of powering the economy.
“On top of this, the commodity price boom and low unemployment have delivered a better bottom line and the revenues needed to slow growth in debt.
“Our biggest challenge will come in the next three years, and we must do the hard work of reform to drive growth, productivity and restore the national credit card.
“We are facing a herculean set of challenges. The task ahead is enormous.
“Productivity growth over the last decade was the worst in six decades. This remains the biggest handbrake on wages growth.
“In two years, debt will exceed $1 trillion. Interest payments will be the fastest growing payment over the next decade outpacing Health, Education, Defence, the Aged Pension and NDIS.
“The pace of economic growth at 1.5 per cent next year is way below our potential and improves only to a meagre 2.5 per cent at the end of the forward estimates.
“It is now time to pull out all stops to drive productivity, innovation, dynamism and job creation. Key to this will be lifting investment off a 30-year low to drive economic growth.
“The budget does little to tackle this problem. We can’t wait for the May Budget to turn this around.
“Business is ready to work with government on the reform path needed to shield Australians from global uncertainty. As the budget shows, $127 billion in company tax receipts in one year alone will help close the fiscal gap.
“Our prosperity is by no means assured, so we’ll need to tread carefully to lock in growing and successful businesses that fund the services Australians want.
“The budget provides a fiscal reset and starkly demonstrates why the days of kicking reform down the road must end.
“After a decade of delaying hard decisions in almost every jurisdiction, we must finally put an end to the idea that governments and more government spending alone can solve our problems or that we’ll get lucky and they’ll solve themselves.
“It is only decisive and coordinated action across all levels of government that will position us for the future, drive growth and give Australians the best opportunities.
“The Budget highlights a fragile economic situation. Overreach in areas such as industrial relations which increases complexity, makes it harder to do business and lowers the incentives to invest and innovate will only make a fragile situation worse.’’
Comments on specific budget measures that can be attributed to Jennifer Westacott
Childcare, Paid Parental Leave and participation
“The government is right to stay the course on its childcare measures, ensuring the sector is prepared for increased demand and that Australian families can access care.
“Moves to boost the duration of Paid Parental Leave are welcome steps to increase participation and let families choose what suits them.’’
Women’s Budget Statement
“It is pleasing to see a comprehensive Women’s Budget Statement and key initiatives which continue to tackle participation and advancement.
“We strongly welcome the record investment of $1.7 billion to tackle violence against women and children.
“As we said at the Jobs and Skills Summit, women’s economic security and participation is now a centrepiece of economic strategy, not a side issue.’’
“We strongly support the additional 180,000 fee free TAFE places which must be targeted to areas of skills shortage as part of a comprehensive rewrite of the National Skills Agreement.
“We welcome a national study into adult literacy, numeracy and literacy skills, barriers which are holding so many people back from participating in the workforce.
“We are pleased to see the Jobs and Skills Summit commitment of 195,000 migration places. This boost not only deals with addressing our short-term skills shortages but also ensures knowledge transfer, which drives innovation and new industry growth.’’
“The budget outlines a sensible approach to funding the government’s promises but a lack of fiscal rules risks a slow drift to higher taxes and lower growth.
“We welcome the $28 billion savings which appear well-targeted and well thought through but we need a long-term strategy to control costs through better service delivery. ‘’
“We welcome the commitment to tackling the shadow economy. We acknowledge the importance of multinational tax compliance but we would encourage the government to consult widely to avoid unintended consequences of deterring much needed foreign investment.
“We would welcome more clarity on the proposed alignment of the on-market and off-market share buybacks and the implications for institutional and retail investors.’’
“Business investment is still predicted to languish at lows not seen since the early-90s recession.
“It will be up to the May Budget to pull Australia’s investment out of the doldrums to drive new opportunities, new industries and supercharge our economic dynamism.
“It’s disappointing that this budget fails to include incentives to drive new investment and productivity, including the patent box.’’
Climate and energy
“We welcome the comprehensive expenditure on the transition to net zero and the decarbonisation of our economy.
“We particularly welcome the $1.4 billion investment in powering our regions, which must play a key and leading role in our transition to net zero. All steps need to be taken to ensure regional Australians are not disadvantaged in the decarbonisation of the economy.’’
“We welcome the $7.4 billion to support regional development. The Business Council has long advocated for a serious focus on regionalisation.’’
“We welcome measures to boost housing supply and support an approach that sees better federal-state cooperation.
“We strongly support the housing accord which should boost supply. It has to be matched with an overhaul of state-based planning systems which are holding back vital housing supply.’’