Business looks for much more than a "steady as she goes"

18 October, 2007

"Regardless of which party forms Government following the election on 24 November, a steady-as-she-goes approach will not be enough for Australia to meet effectively the formidable global challenges we face or to capitalise on the considerable opportunities that lie ahead," Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout has said.

"We need an ambitious government that will lead the country in setting and reaching higher ambitions. We need a government that will create a framework in which individuals and businesses embrace the uncertainty inherent in the current testing economic climate. We need to build further a creative and imaginative culture: a culture that will engender entrepreneurship and innovation underpinned by values of fairness.

"While the economic foundations of our future social progress are strong, we cannot take these for granted. Indeed there are several areas of vulnerability that require action. If these vulnerabilities are addressed and we have imaginative and bold leadership, Australia can build on its strengths and reach for even greater opportunities.

"In recent years we have seen the economy's exposure to a lack of capacity.  Productivity growth has stepped down from the highs of the 1990s and, while labour force growth and investment have been strong, capacity constraints remain a leading barrier. They limit the pace of economic expansion; they heighten risks of wage, price and interest rate pressures and they put a cap on the affordability of broader social progress.

"Recent developments in global financial markets serve as a reminder of Australia's high current account deficit and our vulnerability to shifts in the confidence of international investors.  Our place as a medium-sized, open economy requires us to constantly improve our ability to respond and adapt and to search for new improvements to productivity.

"These vulnerabilities faced by the Australian economy sit alongside the challenges of intensifying global competition - particularly from emerging economies; unfolding demographic forces and climate change.

"If we are to address our vulnerabilities and make the most of our opportunities, governments need to do more than run a steady ship by exerting fiscal discipline - although this remains central to a strong economy. They also need to build the foundations of the stronger and more dynamic economy that will not only fortify against vulnerabilities but will also help to broaden horizons for this and future generations.

"Ai Group has identified eight areas to be put high on the incoming government's agenda (further detailed below):

Liberating Australia's talents

Improving opportunities for individuals and increasing the skilled workforce

More jobs: better jobs

Maintaining a flexible, fair, high-growth, low-unemployment approach to workplace relations

Making the federation work better

Through a systematic and principled realignment of intergovernmental responsibilities

Governments reforming together

Strengthening the foundations of the National Reform Agenda to ensure better results

Constructing capacity

Better planning and coordination of infrastructure and improvements to regulatory arrangements to ensure adequate investment in our transport, energy, water and telecommunications needs

Climate change

Building a response to climate change that is environmentally effective and responsible, able to be integrated with emerging global actions, that facilitates adaptation and that keeps adverse impacts on our competitiveness and regulatory burdens to a minimum

Incentives to work, save and invest

Ai Group proposes a five-year, five point plan for tax reform to underpin workforce growth, improved investment and saving

New wave industry policy for global success

Industry policy with a new and constructive orientation on encouraging innovation and building capabilities

"While we have set out an ambitious program, it is not exhaustive. It does however capture priority areas for business over the next term of parliament. These policy directions would represent major advances in raising and reaching Australia's ambitions," Ridout said.