12/10/2004 - 22:00

Howard’s mandate

12/10/2004 - 22:00


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John Howard’s fourth term re-election is likely to herald a period of major change for business in Australia.

Howard’s mandate

John Howard’s fourth term re-election is likely to herald a period of major change for business in Australia.

Unlike the past term, when the Federal Liberal agenda was bogged down in the Senate, Mr Howard looks likely to have a much freer hand until 2007. That will mean the possibility of previously contentious legislation flowing through.

Just how hard Mr Howard goes will be extremely interesting.

The consummate and wily politician knows that creating lasting change doesn’t occur by ramming through laws that simply fuel an electoral backlash with the resulting possibility of his legacy being unwound in three years time.

He will want to do enough to be seen to be an achiever who used his mandate wisely but not too much that the more fickle elements of his “battlers” won’t get the jitters.

Having the power to enact legislation is not enough. The GST is a legacy of that.

Mr Howard made the GST digestible to the voters and survived an election where the Opposition promised to roll it back. After surviving that challenge the tax is now entrenched and unassailable – we are simply used to it.

If Mr Howard wants to ditch unfair dismissal laws for small business he needs to do it in a way that makes the result palatable enough to survive another election. Call it a small target.

While privatising Telstra is less of a problem in its own right (who would re-nationalise it?) he must weigh up the risks of selling the telco and the backlash that could result, which might potentially risk the next election and any other reforms from the this new term.

The Coalition managed to win back some ground in the bush so selling Telstra might not be a good fit with that.

Other issues that get raised are media ownership laws, restrictions on uranium mining, reducing marginal tax rates and a much-needed extension of the Federal parliamentary term to four years.

I was also pleased to see that the skills shortage was the number one agenda item on the back of Liberal how-to-vote cards (at least in the electorate in which I reside) though I am not sure the Senate was obstructing solutions to this issue.

I am not sure unfair dismissal laws will really have a great impact on this, whereas I believe the opportunity to use migration to boost our national talents would have. Lower marginal rates of tax would help reverse Australia’s brain drain, so Senate control does play a part in this.

With a slow down seen as inevitable after our property and shares binge, increasing migration might also soften the fall in these sectors by pumping new demand into the economy facing high oil prices and rising interest rates. These are all controversial topics because of the polarisation they produce.

I will watch how Mr Howard negotiates the turbulent waters to sell each of the seemingly tough decisions he makes during the next few years.

40under40 restart

After six weeks of campaigning, those of you who have raised your heads to get on with business might have noticed something – we are in the last three months of the calendar year.

This is a scary thought for many, including myself. Not that I would dare suggest I was too busy to notice the year go by.

The reason I mention this is because it’s the launch of the 2005 WA Business News 40under40 awards program which seeks high achieving business types under 40 years of age.

Going into its fourth year, the program now appears to have an unstoppable momentum and has been generating interest all year. Our objective remains to increase the number of nominees and maintain the depth of the winning 40.

That means finding a new crop of potential winners, so please give some thought to those you know who are succeeding in business, either as entrepreneurs or within more structured corporate careers.

Nominations can be made at www.40under40.com.au


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