Stability first step in helping business thrive

Opinion Piece – CCI Chief Executive Officer Chris Rodwell

Instability has become the new norm of Australia’s political system. We now tally five Prime Ministers in five years. That’s basic arithmetic.

What is more difficult to calculate is the impact this instability has had on the performance of Australian businesses, large and small, as they are forced to constantly reassess political and associated risks to their operations, whether in respect of tax, energy policy, or other business regulation.

Suffice to say, these businesses are faced with considerably more complex decisions in evaluating how to operate and whether to invest in Australia, and given news headlines aren’t confined by our borders, we can expect similar concerns to be held by international companies.

Stability must be restored so that the business community can regain its confidence to invest and create new jobs, and our country can recover its international reputation.

Where to start? It helps that our new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, understands the importance of WA businesses to the Australian economy.

Our nation’s economy has been in large part forged on the back of WA’s pioneering instincts to develop our natural resources and forge our trade effort. It is critical that the Federal Government continues to commit to policy settings that provide the best possible environment for these efforts to advance long into the future.

As Treasurer, Scott Morrison engineered the GST reform deal in the national interest of every Australian. CCI worked closely with him as part of the Productivity Commission inquiry process and welcome the fact that one of his first acts as Prime Minister was to confirm the Federal Government’s commitment to reform.

GST reform is critical, but it is not the only policy shift our country needs right now.

While it is imperative that WA continues to develop its resources, our State’s future is also tied to its capacity to diversify. In 2016-17, resource commodities such as base metals, LNG, nickel and iron ore continued to make up 82 per cent of WA’s exports, despite our own resources downturn – meaning that when commodities falter, so does the entire WA economy.

For this to change, industry can’t do it alone. There are some obvious areas for collaboration.

Improving co-ordination to help WA secure more tourists and international students, and building on recent success in trade negotiations, there is a case for strengthening support for trade and investments efforts.

Supporting WA to play a greater role in delivering the nation’s defence capability is vital. So too is the task of reducing onerous regulation so businesses can spend more time building their business rather than being overrun by unnecessary paperwork.

Of critical importance to our future workforce is our ability to upskill and retrain our workers to meet the needs of our changing economy. We urge the Federal Government to finalise its Skilling Australians Fund agreements with all states and territories to incentivise employers to utilise apprenticeships and traineeships.

Now that the company tax cuts for larger businesses have disappointing been dropped, tax cuts for small and medium sized businesses should be accelerated and ongoing investment in priority infrastructure, such as METRONET and Perth Freight Link, progressed as these are key enablers of industry growth and the attraction of business investment.

But for any of this to happen, the political will for holistic economic reform needs to be reborn. We cannot afford to sit back and let ourselves become uncompetitive with the rest of the world.

Populist policies over national interest reform, scaremongering over truth, division over unity – this has become Australia’s political system, and the only way it will change is if short-term politicking in the national interest is put aside.

It is incumbent on each of our WA Federal representatives to make this case for change to ensure Australia continues to be a global leader both economically and socially.

CCI congratulates all WA Ministers who retained their position and those who have been elevated. We also pay tribute to Julie Bishop for her service to our country.

With a Federal election impending, it is critical that all political parties commit to policies that support a thriving business community, because it is business that underpins the prosperity of this nation.

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