Next Parliament: Crunch Time for Australia

“The next term of the federal parliament is crunch time for Australia. Our long-term prosperity hinges on us not wasting the next three years tinkering at the edges of outdated policy settings or missing opportunities to make our economy more robust and resilient,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group, said today.

“There is a high risk that the next three years will see a deterioration in our overall economic circumstances, given the US Federal Reserve’s tightening of interest rates, the prospect of elevated inflation, a much more volatile geopolitical environment, including in our immediate region and ongoing disruptions to international trade.

“There are important immediate tasks to be tackled in the term of the next parliament. These include securing a full recovery from the ongoing disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic; reassessing the adequacy of our national security settings; ensuring our federation works cohesively and dealing with the inflationary and supply pressures that are testing the capacity of the economy.

“In addition, the next three years must see substantial progress in laying the critical foundations for a future that is inclusive, environmentally sustainable and prosperous.

“Australia’s strongly growing economy is at risk from a lack of suitable labour; threats to the stability and flexibility of our workplace relations arrangements; disruptions to global supply chains; the prospect of steep energy price rises flowing from sharply higher global prices for energy resources; and uncompetitive tax and regulatory arrangements. At the same time, we face a volatile geopolitical environment that is forcing a fundamental reassessment of the adequacy of our national security arrangements and the role of Australian industry in reducing our vulnerabilities.

“A concerted effort is needed to restore real incomes growth and ensure its sustainability. This requires a strong focus on raising productivity growth.

“Critically, this includes giving much more attention to developing a more highly skilled workforce and lifting the capabilities of businesses – with a particular focus on the many small and medium-sized businesses, both of which are key drivers of our economy.

“It also requires an approach to workforce relations that ensures the flexibility that businesses and the Australian workforce is increasingly demanding. This includes supporting the greater participation of women in the workforce both by lifting the availability and affordability of flexible childcare and through a widely available, publicly funded paid domestic violence leave scheme.

“We need to give more direction to, and certainty about, how Australia can regain its energy advantage while ensuring reliability of energy supply and locking in the path to net zero emissions.

“Australia must find ways to lift business investment and innovation. These are pillars of productivity growth and sustainable improvements in real incomes. Greater certainty about the path to net zero is critical to this as are the competitiveness of our tax arrangements and breaking down barriers to greater collaboration between our business and research sectors.

“In the lead up to the official election campaign, Ai Group has released fourteen policy papers which set out concrete policy measures and policy directions to address both our immediate and longer-term challenges. The papers contain proposals in the following categories (the policy measures and policy directions we propose are summarised in the document available here together with links to the papers themselves):

  • Skills development, education and training
  • Workplace relations
  • Developing Australian industry
  • Energy, climate and the environment
  • Taxation and intergovernmental relations
  • Skilled migration
  • Pandemic preparedness.

“Australia cannot leave action in these areas to 2025 or even later. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of complacency”, Mr Willox said.

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