Business wants reform

BUSINESS groups are calling for renewed economic reform and are refusing to take sides in what is expected to be a closely contested election.

However, industry is finding it hard for their voice to be heard as the February 10 election debate's early stages focus on health and other social issues.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Lyndon Rowe said he hoped that the incoming government would be one that was prepared to take up the reins on essential economic reform which had languished in recent years.

"Business has no favourites, only a desire for sensible and forward-looking policies and for sound administration of the public domain," Mr Rowe said.

"WA needs parliamentarians with vigour who see the bigger picture and who are prepared to tackle the hard issues and follow through."

The Real Estate Institute of WA believes tax reform would be the key issue in the property sector during the election campaign.

"State governments have become overly reliant on property taxes. In WA property taxes represent up to 15 per cent of its total revenue from state sources," REIWA president Graham Joyce said.

"The extra GST revenue offers a unique opportunity for the next state government in WA to really do something positive about tax reform.

"In the past our demands for tax reform have been knocked back because successive state governments have claimed that there is no alternative to revenue from property taxes, such as stamp duty and land tax."

Mr Joyce said there was no doubt property taxes were too high.

"In WA the average homebuyer pays $4,300 in stamp duty. Over the last five years stamp duty payable by the average homebuyer has risen by 50 per cent, however property values have risen by only 25 per cent in the same period," he said.

The CCI is strongly opposed to Labor's plans to roll back WA's labour market reform.

Labor says it will scrap the Coalition's workplace agreements legislation and change the industrial relations system in ways which, according to the CCI, will serve to restore the power of industrial tribunals and trade unions.

"Workplace agreements have played an important part in WA's economic performance, employment growth and success of the private sector," Mr Rowe said.

"Labor's proposed substitute for workplace agreements would not be workable and would not be taken up by many employers given the terms outlined.

"Repealing the current legislation would put many thousands of jobs at risk."

According to the CCI, Labor has also indicated it will undo the extremely important changes made in 1999 (which Labor supported in parliament) which were necessary to save the workers' compensation system from collapse.

Mr Rowe also said that the Labor party had indicated that it would wind back the Government's contracting out of services.

"The CCI believes the contracting out of non-core services has been an important part of WA's economic reform process," he said.

"Rather than turning back from it, the task for the incoming government should be to tackle the problem areas and improve its implementation."

The CCI also reiterated its position that there should be less ministries, departments and agencies.

The WA regional manager of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, Con Abbott called on both parties to commit to a meaningful implementation of the Gunning Committee's recommendations.

"Government has a very important role in educating investors and this needs to be ongoing," Mr Abbott said.

"You could argue that if education had been prominent after Rothwells / Teachers Credit, the impact from mortgage brokers would have been lessened."

"The appointed Government Regulator is critical to the ongoing control of finance brokers and other occupations.

"Unfortunately those seeking to exploit the vulnerable are always in business."

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