What lies ahead for Australia

INDUSTRIAL relations seems more than a glossy front cover political issue in Australia.

Describing next month’s Federal election as a watershed one against the backdrop of global security concerns, Worley advisory board and Business Council of Australia chairman John Schubert lists workplace relations as one of the five public policy essentials to ensure Australian economic growth in times of unprecedented uncertainty.

While the immediate focus, one of critical importance for Australia, is on security issues, Dr Schubert maintains Australia’s next government must address how to fund the country’s longterm security.

Dr Schubert says greater flexibility in workplace relations has brought increased productivity and underpinned Australia’s economic performance. Further, industrial relations and workplace reform has delivered a significant fall in disputations over the past 15 years and has contributed to strong jobs growth.

An immediate and ongoing necessity to focus on security will demand longterm funding, Dr Schubert says, and this can only be provided by a growing economy. In turn, a growing economy depends on productivity growth and good workplace relations policy is essential to this.

However, another industry chestnut tops the list of priorities for ensuring economic growth in uncertain times. Dr Schubert maintains that taxation reform is a necessity, given Australia’s difficulties with comparative size, geographical location and access to sufficient capital.

Redesigning the international tax regime to remove the structural barriers to offshore expansion for Australian-based companies and implementing outstanding business tax reforms from the Ralph review are essential to ensure Australia can remain the thirteenth strongest economy in the world and the first in the region.

The Trade Practices Act is a further priority for Australia’s next government, Dr Schubert argues. Globalisation and, by consequence, Australia’s significantly changed economic relationship with the rest of the world since the Act was last reviewed 10 years back, endangers the success of potential mergers that could deliver net public benefits by driving higher productivity and reducing prices. A complex issue, Australia’s laws nonetheless need to accommodate both competitive practice and Australia’s overall best interests.

Education and training is another issue linking productivity and economic growth to a secure and fair Australia, but like the other priorities, is not well understood by the broader community, Dr Schubert says. Quality people with appropriate knowledge, skills, ingenuity and know-how will primarily determine Australia’s social, political and economic success, he maintains.

One of the most important tasks facing the new government will be that of building community understanding of these issues - and hence support for free enterprise and the benefits of wealth creation.

The largest Australian engineering services provider, Worley has achieved 22 per cent compound revenue growth and doubled its net profit in the past four years.

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