Growth only way forward

Business Council of Australia

“This budget propels Australia out of the pandemic and lays the foundations for a jobs-led recovery,” Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

“We are on the right track. The budget builds on the significant gains we’ve made to create jobs, get people and businesses back to work, rebuild confidence and fire up economic growth.

“The social dividend of a growing economy means the Morrison government’s budget gives back to those who need it most with a record injection of funds that will help improve lives in aged care, mental health and disability services.

“The government has started to put the foundations in place to transform our economy so over time we can do more to address the structural barriers that threaten to hold Australia back and to make the switch to a business-led recovery.

“These foundations include further measures to stimulate investment, a comprehensive digital strategy, attracting global talent, nationwide infrastructure spending, an ambitious skills package and measures to increase women’s participation.

“Business agrees the best way to repair the budget and start paying down debt is to grow the economy.

“The economy needs to be growing at a rate that provides the light at the end of the tunnel to pay off the nation’s trillion dollar mortgage and pay it off in a way that continues to feed ongoing growth.

“The budget strikes a prudent balance between growth and fiscal discipline by making sensible investments in the levers of growth.

“Every dollar needs to be an investment in creating more and higher paying jobs, equipping people with better skills, improving services and delivering a more modern, advanced economy.

“As we begin to transition from recovery to economic expansion, we need to take advantage of our head start in the global recovery to come back stronger, smarter and more productive than before.

“There’s no point winning the battle against the virus if we lose out to other countries in the post-pandemic race for investment, high-skilled jobs and industries, and higher living standards.”

Budget 2021 statement – Jennifer Westacott

Skills

The Treasurer’s focus on addressing the mismatch between skills and job vacancies will help the labour market adjust to the upheavals of COVID-19.

As a nation, we have to throw everything we can at getting people into jobs, particularly the more than 30,000 people who have been on JobSeeker for more than a decade.

This $4.7 billion package responds to our persistent calls to skill up Australians and ensure that jobseekers have the skills that employers need.

Increasing the number of apprentices, providing additional short courses through the JobTrainer Fund and focusing on digital skills are significant investments in Australia’s workforce.

Business will continue to work with the government so people can reskill and upskill quickly.

We believe a greater use of industry recognised short courses allows people to rapidly master the new skills they need without having to quit their jobs to study.

Business investment

The 12 month extension of the expensing measures and loss carry back are welcome, particularly for small and medium sized businesses.

We will continue to work with the government on ways to make serious inroads into reversing the freefall in business investment as a share of the economy, which is currently at 28-year lows.

Only through raising business investment – and expanding incentives to companies of all sizes – can we achieve a sustained private sector led recovery.

More needs to be done to make Australia a magnet for large scale, game-changing investments that drive innovation, capture new export markets and accelerate economic growth.

The progress on red tape and regulation is welcome.

Digital economy

The budget positions Australia to keep pace with the major global shifts of technological change and decarbonisation.

It sets us on a path to realise our ambition to be a leading digital economy by 2030. The government’s Digital Economy Strategy will accelerate the shift to a cashless and paperless society and make everyday life easier for consumers and create new jobs.

We welcome the moves to make it easier to attract global talent including a concierge service to attract highly skilled workers and removing the anomaly requiring workers to pay tax on employee share schemes when they leave a business.

Patent box

We support new measures to help commercialise Australia’s great ideas and innovations through a new ‘patent box’ applying first to the medical and biotech sectors.

This is a helpful step in promoting innovation in a critical sector of the economy.

Decarbonisation

We are on track to meet the 2030 emissions target and this will see us transform our economy. The government’s investment of more than $1 billion in low-emissions technologies, including hydrogen hubs in regional Australia, will help reduce our emissions, create new industries and new jobs.

Child care

Changes to child care are a crucial step to fixing the barriers to women who want to work more hours or work extra days and boost economic growth.

We look forward to working with the government to continuously improve our child care and paid parental leave system to lift female participation in the workforce, give families more flexibility and make our economy more productive.

Women’s economic measures

We support any measures to improve women’s safety and economic security and welcome the government’s spending to address violence against women, ensure workplaces are free from sexual harassment and improve the accessibility and quality of women’s health services.

Aged care, mental health and disability services

This budget targets social priorities with a long overdue funding boost to aged care as well as extra spending in mental health and disability services.

Increasing the amount of time nurses and carers spend with aged care home residents and supporting additional places and training will help improve lives.

We also support improvements to enhance the viability and sustainability of the residential aged care sector.

We welcome tonight’s injection of funding but further work is needed to properly address workforce shortages as well as ensuring we have the funding and delivery models to raise and sustain the quality of services.

A credible fiscal path

The budget makes inroads into repairing the nation’s balance sheet with fiscal support aimed at accelerating the recovery, which will help stabilise future debt levels.

Economic growth will need to be stronger than before COVID-19 to make up lost ground. A stronger economy than expected last year has boosted the bottom line by $40 billion in 2020-21 and $20 billion in 2021-22.

Reopening our borders

We need a consistent, clear and understood national roadmap that outlines how we permanently reopen the domestic economy and gradually reopen our international borders.

Without a careful, nationally coordinated plan to reopen the economy tied to progress in the vaccine roll-out we risk eroding our competitive advantage in areas such as attracting international students and high skilled labour.

This will hold us back from growing the industries of the future such as advanced manufacturing and digital.

We cannot allow our successful management of COVID-19 to become our Achilles heel. The budget assumes no substantial reopening of the economy before the middle of 2022.

Safely reopening the economy is a sure-fire way to create more jobs, deliver more services and products, expand businesses, bring the unemployment rate down further and pay higher wages.

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