Competitiveness Agenda takes shape

The address last night to the Sydney Institute by the Federal Industry Minister, Mr Macfarlane – ‘Australia’s competitive edge in the industries of the future’ – suggests that the forthcoming National Investment and Competitiveness Agenda will give welcome focus to broadening and deepening collaboration between the business and research communities and to developing the skills businesses need to succeed in the future.

These directions have the strong support of industry and align with the positions advocated by the Australian Industry Group. We have suggested that governments have important roles in facilitating and encouraging the efforts of businesses to innovate and lift management and workforce skills to raise competitiveness. These facilitating roles are required to support the roles that governments have in getting the macro settings right such as by fixing our workplace relations arrangements; lifting the competitiveness of the tax system; ensuring high levels of investment in infrastructure; reducing red and green tape; and the responsible management of fiscal policy.

We also welcome the Minister’s emphasis on focusing on areas in which we have competitive advantages as our economy evolves. It makes sense to build on and grow areas of success rather than adopting the defensive approach of protecting areas of vulnerability. That said, of course it is also important for governments to be active in easing industrial transitions for particular concentrations of employees and businesses.

In becoming more forward-looking, however, there is a need to recognise that Australia’s competitive advantages come from many, and often unpredictable sources.  We need to be wary of relegating this or that industry to the scrapheap just because it is old, unfashionable or “heavy industry”.

The truth is that Australia’s is a dynamic economy on a number of levels and alongside new areas of activity whose prospects are recognised, we also see more established businesses and industries innovating and reinvigorating and, just as importantly, we are frequently surprised and pleased by unpredictable successes.

We cannot afford to overlook these sources of competitive advantage and if we are to gear industry policy to the “industries of the future” it will need to be ready to facilitate successes from all of these sources.

What would you like to see in the National Investment and Competitiveness Agenda? Contribute your ideas, and the experiences of your business, below.

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Graham Turner
Graham Turner is the former Editor of Ai Group's Industry magazine, which ceased publication in 2014. He now edits (and moderates) this Blog, together with Ai Group's weekly Email newsletter.

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