2020-21 Pre-budget submission

Bringing the WA economy back to a position of strength

To mount an economic recovery from this crisis, to grow our economy, and create more opportunities for our kids in future, the State Budget must be focused on supporting greater business investment.

With six out of every seven jobs in the private sector, improving the environment for local business is imperative if we are to recover jobs lost during the pandemic.

Our recommendations give voice to WA business, focused on key priorities of retail trading hours, tax, skills, Industry 4.0, energy costs, regulation and international engagement.

Boost youth employment by reforming retail trading hours

Extending trading hours will create jobs.

As we emerge from COVID-19 there is no shortage of people wanting to work more. Youth unemployment is
16.7 per cent and more than 152,000 people are under-employed. Extending trading hours would also provide bricks and mortar retailers with a fighting chance against online competitors.

The State Government should open up Sunday morning trading by allowing trading to begin at 8 am. It should also extend Saturday evening trading and formally enact Public Holiday trading extensions. It should also remove regulations that tell a business what it can sell when.

Reduce the tax burden on business

Competition for international capital will intensify post-COVID. WA relies on that international capital more than any other State. If we want to grow current and future industries, we need a more globally competitive tax system.

The State Government should signal it is prepared to work through National Cabinet to reduce the tax burden on business. With NSW and Victoria already heavily engaged, it is vital we have a strong view.

The State Government should also signal it is open to investigating transitioning from stamp duty to a broad-based land tax.

Fix our broken skills and training system

With less skilled migration it is vital we have a responsive training system.

Businesses are frustrated with the quality and delivery of training courses offered by TAFEs. At the same time, private training providers are prevented from setting their own prices, creating incentives to maximise student volume rather than innovate and improve quality. This brings the training system down to a low standard.

The State Government should allow private training providers to set their own prices. Both State and Commonwealth Governments have a wide range of tools to regulate the market without having to mandate the price of qualifications.

Power up our manufacturing sector

WA has a host of manufacturing businesses focused on niche products. Greater adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies like Computer Numerical Control, laser beam welding and 3D printing could see these businesses capture greater global market share and grow jobs.

The State Government should establish an overarching manufacturing Industry 4.0 strategy, focused on accelerating the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies.

Specific initiatives should focus on facilitating the transfer of knowledge to local firms and networking opportunities, as well as an online portal that consolidates information on government incentives and programs.

Lower the retail electricity contestability threshold

WA businesses are facing rising cost pressures. Around 75 per cent of businesses surveyed by CCIWA prior to the pandemic agreed that enhancing competition among energy providers to drive down power prices would help their business to invest and grow in the next five years.

The State Government should allow small businesses to choose their electricity retailer by lowering the contestability threshold to 20 megawatt-hours of electricity per annum or moving to a qualitative definition that defines all non-residential customers as contestable.

Pilot a regulatory sandbox

Innovation can help propel the WA economy through the recovery phase. But a barrier to applying new technologies like artificial intelligence and 3D printing is they may not fit neatly into existing regulatory frameworks. This can make it difficult to earn regulatory approvals.

An emerging approach to facilitating new technologies is ‘regulatory sandboxes’. These allow businesses and regulators to quarantine new technologies from regulation for a limited period with safeguards.

The State Government should work with industry to pilot a regulatory sandbox and use the learnings from the pilot project to develop an economy-wide regulatory sandbox framework.

An aggressive and strategic push into global markets

Some countries will be reticent to re-engage with global markets once COVID-19 begins to fade. There is a significant opportunity for Western Australia to fill this vacuum.

Without a strategy, our efforts to reintegrate into the global economy will be reactive and opportunistic, and we will fall behind countries that take the initiative. As it currently stands, there is a low level of international awareness about medium-to-large scale commercial investment projects in WA.

The State Government should develop a global re-engagement strategy to frame our State’s overall goals for trade and investment.

This should involve partnering with CCIWA to develop a WA Investment Portfolio Deal Book. The Deal Book would actively promote major investment opportunities to prospective foreign investors across a range of WA industries.

The State Government should also develop a strategy to grow our population by reviewing all relevant tax, visa, international student and other policy settings.