Chalmers commits to taking IR concerns to Cabinet

Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers has committed to representing CCIWA’s concerns with key aspects of the Government’s proposed IR reforms in Cabinet. 

Addressing a 500-strong crowd at CCIWA’s breakfast event this morning, the Treasurer said he accepted there was a difference in views on how to address sustainable wage growth across the economy, but “I will try my best to represent the views that are put to me from this community”.

“At the end of the day, I think something as contentious as industrial relations, with all of its history and all of its moving parts and all of its complexity, inevitably there is not going to be unanimity on it,” he said. 

“But our job, and I take this job incredibly seriously, is to make sure that the issues that you raise with us in good faith are part of the conversation that we have around the Cabinet table.”

READ MORE: Federal Budget underscores need for reform 

The Treasurer said enterprise bargaining “will still be a central feature of what we’re proposing”, but “if you recognise, as we do, that there are parts of our economy where wage stagnation is a significant problem then you have to do things differently”. 

In his keynote speech, the Treasurer earmarked new and more efficient energy industries, how the nation approaches human capital and opportunities in the digital economy as three key areas of reform for the Federal Government. 

Outlining priorities in last week’s Budget, he said it had been crafted to address a global economy that was in a “tricky place”. 

Inflation was “public enemy number one” and “the biggest threat to our economy right now”, he said.

“If we don’t get on top of this inflation challenge, then so many of the other things that we want to achieve together in our economy will be that much more difficult to achieve,” he said. 

Meanwhile, skills shortages remained another challenge, with the Government hoping five initiatives — free TAFE places, extra university places, increased migration, cheaper childcare and more affordable housing via the Housing Accord — would “shift the needle on labour policy”. 

However, he said “we don’t pretend that a new Government five months in can kind of click its fingers and all of a sudden all of the challenges that we are all dealing with collectively, all of a sudden disappear”. 

Rather, he said, the Budget was iterative with the Government laying the foundations for “a more responsible Budget, a more resilient economy”.

Migration ‘absolutely crucial’ 

During a Q&A with CCIWA Chief Economist Aaron Morey, Chalmers said migration was “part of the solution” along with training, though he believed “there is a role” for labour market testing. 

“Migration is absolutely crucial to economic growth, absolutely central to economic growth, and I am I am a big believer,” he said. 

“But in order to win and maintain public support for the type of migration program befitting a country like ours with the needs that we have, then we need to be able to convey and convince the Australian people that we’ve got to find the right balance,” he said. 

CCS has a role to play 

On the issue of carbon reduction to reach net zero, he said “CCS (carbon capture storage) had a role to play, though he acknowledged the Government had trimmed investments in the Budget.

“It’s not because we have some kind of ideological aversion to it, it’s just that when you go through some of the commitments that have been made, and you’re trying to find tens of billions of dollars of savings, then we identified that as an area,” he said. 

“Not because we don’t want to see it happen, not because we don’t believe in it, not because we don’t understand that a lot of the industries represented here are taking it very seriously. But when you’ve got the kind of pressures on the Budget that we have had, then you need to find ways where you can trim spending and that’s been one of those areas.” 

GST, gas reservation policy ruled out 

The Treasurer also ruled out any changes to the GST base and rate, as well as suggestions by NSW Treasurer Matt Kean that WA should be forced to share some of its gas reserves with the east coast. 

“Yes, we can rule out both of those proposals,” Chalmers said.


Want to attend CCIWA’s next big networking event? Tickets to Chamber Social on November 23 are available now. 

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