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Time to lift our game and set new national targets, ambitions

16 April, 2008

A measure of the success of the 2020 Summit will be whether it identifies ways we can lift our game as a nation by setting new national targets and ambitions,” Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout has said.

“The Ai Group has made a number of practical proposals to the 2020 Summit process in a paper presented to the Government and Summit delegates this week.

“We can use the summit to revitalise our national brand around the organising principles of prosperity, opportunity and creativity. 

“Economic success provides the material foundation to better meet our broader aspirations.  In turn, building social and economic opportunities and nurturing creativity can strengthen our potential to become more prosperous.

“To achieve these ambitions we need to address the productivity challenge set out in our recently released report How Fast Can Australia Grow? Mark III.  This major piece of research has also been made available to all Summit delegates.  Our research highlights the substantial economic challenges ahead.  It shows that on current trajectories we will struggle to grow at an annual rate of three per cent on average over the decade to 2017. 

“While potential GDP growth approaching three per cent a year is not to be taken lightly, the imperative to improve on this is heightened by two important factors.  Namely the unfolding impacts of an ageing population and the need to make significant changes to our environmental stewardship - particularly in the areas of water management and greenhouse gas emissions. These factors, together with the slower growth trajectory highlighted in How Fast Can Australia Grow? Mark III underline the case for broad-ranging efforts to lift productivity and increase the pace of labour force expansion.

“In responding to these challenges Ai Group proposes:

  • Adopting the target of raising potential annual GDP growth from its current level of under 3 per cent to 4.25 per cent by 2020. This requires us to boost productivity and lift the pace of labour force growth.
  • Lifting the pace of productivity improvement from the 1.67 per cent trajectory estimated in How Fast Can Australia Grow? Mark III to a level of 2.6% from 2020.
  • Increasing the annual rate of labour force growth from a projected level of 1.25% to a rate of 1.65% by 2020.

 “While these goals represent stretch targets they are eminently achievable.

 “The 2020 Summit is an opportunity to develop and build support for initiatives to boost economic performance and Ai Group has proposed:

  • Revamping our approaches to education and training to develop better skills and capabilities; 
  • Lifting the pace of business innovation and national innovative capacity;
  • Better co-ordination and increased levels of investment in transport, water, energy and telecommunications infrastructure;
  • Ensuring efficient and competitive domestic markets including in the vital areas of energy and water;
  • Reducing regulatory burdens;
  • Lifting the competitiveness of our taxation systems;
  • Improving the efficiency of government service provision;
  • Increasing the rate of net immigration, including of temporary migration; and,
  • Acting across a broad range of initiatives to boost participation in the labour force.

If the decade ahead is to be another era of significant economic reform, we also need to learn from the experiences of the 1980s and 1990s and seek to better anticipate the economic, social and regional dislocations that can arise and to provide new pathways and opportunities for those affected. We need to supplement our drive for growth with effectively-designed transitional measures to assist employees, regions and industries adjust to changing directions of economic development.

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