Head to Head: Where the parties stand on business policy

HeadToHead

If you want a five-minute summary of how the major parties compare on business policy, look no further. Ten days ahead of poll day, we’ve compiled a comprehensive head-to-head list of Election commitments.

With the election campaign in the home stretch, the major parties have outlined the bulk of their campaign promises.

The overall budget balance would be similar under each side, with significant deficits over the next four years and a gradual return to surplus in the longer term.

Most of the Coalition’s promises have already been built into the Budget bottom line through the 2016-17 Budget. The ALP’s promises to date would increase the deficit by more than the Coalition’s in the near term, but would improve the Budget by modestly more over the longer term.

There have been many commitments of particular interest to business. Here are several of the most relevant commitments from the major parties. The text below expands on the topics in the following table:

Topic ALP policy Coalition policy
Competition Higher penalties for breaching ACL Effects test for misuse of market power
Education Restore Gonski, strengthen VET Redesign VET, boost P-TECH
Energy and climate Net zero 2050, 2 ETSs Review in 2017, CEFC finance
Industry Support steel Support steel
Infrastructure High fibre NBN, $10b for strong IA Establish City Deals
Innovation Startup support 2015 NISA statement
Tax Cut small biz tax, clamp down on super and negative gearing Cut all biz tax over ten years, clamp down on super
Workplace relations Clamp down hard on short-paying employers, modestly tighten industrial law enforcement Clamp down hard on industrial law enforcement, modestly tighten rules on short-paying employers

 

Competition

  • ALP commitments
    • Oppose an ‘effects test’ for the misuse of market power (see below), but allow courts to waive adverse costs against small businesses pursuing actions under competition law.
    • Increase penalties for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law to $10m, use EU approach of calculating penalties within this limit at 30% of annual sales of the relevant product, and increase ACCC’s litigation budget.
  • Coalition commitments
    • Legislate an ‘effects test’, as recommended by the Harper Competition Inquiry, which would make it easier to establish the misuse of market power by referring to the effects of conduct, not its purpose.

Education

Energy, Environment, Climate

  • ALP commitments
    • Set emissions targets of 45% below 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero by 2050; aim for 50% renewable energy by 2030.
    • Establish two emissions trading schemes, one for electricity generators and another for other large emitters; develop a scheme to reduce oversupply in the electricity sector; adopt and adapt other existing Coalition emissions policies.
  • Coalition commitments
    • Review future climate policy in 2017 and review targets in coming years.
    • Establish funds within the existing Clean Energy Finance Corporation to finance clean energy and energy efficiency projects relating to the Great Barrier Reef ($1 billion) and smart cities ($100m).

Infrastructure

  • ALP commitments
    • Adjust the NBN rollout to connect an additional 2 million homes to fibre-to-the-premises.
    • Fund and empower Infrastructure Australia to put together infrastructure deals itself, with independent financing and an injection of $10b; IA to assess all major infrastructure projects for societal benefits, commercial viability and productivity impacts, and publish results.
    • Funding for a vast assortment of regional and urban projects in transport, water and sporting infrastructure.
  • Coalition commitments
    • Establish City Deals, starting with Western Sydney and Townsville, to coordinate infrastructure investment, development and access to Federal funding with councils, States and other stakeholders.
    • Funding for a vast assortment of regional and urban projects in transport, water and sporting infrastructure.

Industry

  • ALP commitments
    • $58.6m for a Manufacturing Transition Boost, supporting advanced manufacturing generally and transition for automotive suppliers in particular.
    • Review and reorient the Industry Growth Centres and cancel their project funding.
    • Support steel through new standards in Commonwealth projects, lower thresholds for Australian Industry Participation Plans and strengthened anti-dumping; support SA steel through up to $100m in State and Federal grants and up to $50m in financing or loan guarantees.
  • Coalition commitments

Innovation

Tax

  • ALP commitments
  • Coalition commitments
    • Reduce business taxes over a ten-year timetable, including an immediate reduction in the company tax rate to 27.5% for companies with turnovers of less than $10m in 2016-17, with phased further extensions of the threshold so the 27.5% rate would apply to all companies in 2023-24. The company tax rate would then phase down to 25% by 2026-27.
    • Restrict tax concessions for superannuation, through a $1.5m balance transfer cap, an increase from 15% to 30% of the tax on concessional contributions from individuals with income and contributions above $250k per year, lowering the superannuation concessional contributions cap to $25k per year, and capping lifetime non-concessional contributions at $500k.

Workplace relations

  • ALP commitments
    • Clamp down on industrial organisation misbehaviour by giving ASIC power to investigate serious contraventions, increasing penalties, increasing enforcement resources, protecting whistleblowers and extending electoral funding disclosure laws to union elections and lowering disclosure thresholds.
    • Introduce new protections for vulnerable workers, including protections against sham contracting, higher penalties for underpayment, and powers for the Fair Work Ombudsman to pursue employers who liquidate their companies to avoid payment of monies owed to workers.
  • Coalition commitments

Check out our full Federal Election 2016 Preview, including everything from how to vote in the new system to what it will take for a change of government – and even what to keep in mind if you’re thinking of taking a punt!

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Tennant Reed
Tennant is Principal National Adviser – Public Policy at Ai Group. He has worked heavily on climate and energy issues, advising Ai Group’s Leaders’ Group on Energy and Climate Policy and developing reports on natural gas supply, energy prices and energy efficiency. He also works on a range of issues related to manufacturing and innovation. Previously he was an adviser in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, working on fiscal policy, stimulus and infrastructure.

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