Election’s 11 – the policy priorities for business in 2016

Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, sets out the major policy priorities for the organisation and for business in this important election year.

The major objective of policy in 2016 should be to lay the foundations for improvements in Australian living standards which will benefit business and the whole community.

It’s exciting to find that there is a definite, if cautious, feeling of renewed hope across the business community as we enter this important election year. Our annual Business Prospects survey report, released last week, has found Australia’s CEOs are more optimistic about general business conditions in 2016 than at any time in the past three years.

However, with the economy only edging its way back towards its potential growth rate and with the terms of trade likely to slip even further in 2016, and with the Australian automotive assembly industry winding down, there are fundamental questions about the sources of future growth. Significant progress will require a lift in business confidence and a concerted effort to facilitate more rapid improvements in productivity.

Ai Group’s focus in 2016 is on eleven areas:

  1. The federal budget will need to strike a delicate balance between the near-term need to lift demand (or at the very least avoid detracting from it) and the need to map a convincing medium-term course back to a position of fiscal sustainability.
  2. Making sensible improvements to the flexibility and integrity of our workplace relations arrangements is fundamental to the objectives of creating more competitive businesses and more high-productivity, high wage jobs. The Government has an opportunity in its responses to the Productivity Commission Report and the Heydon Royal Commission to make real progress in modernising our workplace relations arrangements and practices.
  3. Making the most of the current window open on taxation reform is critical. The challenge is to design and build support for a package of measures that lift the efficiency of taxation and reduce its costs while ensuring it supports the nation’s revenue needs and redistribution objectives.
  4. It is likely that the most telling potential contributions to raising living standards rest on the investments we can make in developing the skills of the current and future workforce. Whether in foundation skills such as literacy and numeracy; in improving the breadth and depth of STEM skills; or in the quality of our managers, there are very worthwhile opportunities for high-yielding investments and policy initiatives.
  5. Improving Australia’s business capabilities should remain a major policy priority. Whether by better informing businesses of the opportunities available under Australia’s various trade agreements and for engagement in global supply chains; by investing in the Entrepreneurs’ Programme aimed at lifting performance of small and medium-sized businesses; by facilitated adaptation by businesses operating in vulnerable automotive supply chains; or by raising awareness of digital capabilities, threats and opportunities, there are important educative and facilitative roles for government.
  6. The federal Government has made a very important down payment in the vital area of innovation. The challenges are to implement the initiatives it has announced – particularly in the area of improved business-research collaboration and by encouraging innovation through government procurement; to encourage more organisations to look for new opportunities; and to better enable these opportunities to be realised and commercialised.
  7. Several Government initiatives due in 2016 will bear on the development of the Australian defence industry and the considerable range of impacts it can have on the broader domestic economy. The anticipated announcements include the Defence White Paper, The defence industry statement and the decision in relation to Australia’s future submarine capabilities.
  8. We will maintain our focus on ensuring that Australia’s energy markets work efficiently to deliver reliable supplies of competitively-priced energy for domestic industries and households.
  9. Ai Group supports progressing Australia’s approaches to climate policy to ensure that near and longer-term targets can be met at least cost and in ways that ensure investment certainty and competitiveness.
  10. We continue to support a strong program of investment in rigorously assessed and prioritised infrastructure.
  11. Ai Group continues to emphasise the importance of maintaining a regular permanent migration program – we have urged an intake of 220,000 this year and a suite of flexible temporary migration programs linked closely to the demand for workforce skills.

I would greatly appreciate hearing your views on these priorities and what is important for your business in 2016.  Please email me at ceo@aigroup.com.au, or leave a comment below.

Have a great year.

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Ai Group Chief Executive since May 2012, Innes joined as Director International and Government Relations in 2008. Prior to this he held a number of senior roles in both the public and private sectors: Australian Consul General to Los Angeles (2006-08); Chief of Staff to Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer (2004-06); and Manager for Global Public Affairs, Singapore Airlines (2000-04). He began his career as a journalist, with his positions including Chief Political Correspondent and Chief of Staff at The Age.

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