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Federal Election an opportunity to drive a diverse and dynamic economy

"With the federal election now officially underway, Ai Group is urging all parties to adopt policies to deliver the diverse and dynamic economy needed to lift living standards and underwrite sustainable growth," Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox said today.

"Ai Group has identified nine policies areas requiring serious policy attention from all parties. These priorities make clear the central role the private sector needs to play in meeting our economic goals with the support of good public policy.

"Ai Group maintains a non-partisan approach in any political contest but there are policy priorities that should cross the political divide as set out in our pre-election document.

"The nine election priorities for business detailed further in the document linked here are:
1. Taxation Reform: Despite the evident difficulties in developing and prosecuting the case for tax reform, progress in this area should be a leading ambition for the next term of Parliament. The challenge is to design and build community support for a package of measures that lifts the efficiency of taxation and reduces its costs while ensuring the national tax arrangements support the nation's revenue needs and redistribution objectives.

Ai Group's leading tax reform priority continues to be a legislated and phased reduction in the rate of company tax from its present uncompetitive level of 30 per cent. This would make Australia more internationally competitive and would assist in lifting incentives for private sector investment, innovation and employment at a time when these are at the heart of our future progress. We should also be particularly wary of the potential damage to economic growth that would flow from higher effective rates of income tax.

2. Budget Sustainability: A convincing path must be maintained for the return of the federal budget to a position of sustainability and strength:
- On the spending side, ongoing efforts are required to cut wasteful expenditure and programs; to remove areas of duplication; and to accelerate the pace of productivity growth in the public sector;
- On the tax revenue side of the fiscal equation, the best opportunities for a sustainable acceleration of revenue growth lie in lifting the pace of general economic growth.

3. Developing the Skills of the Current and Future Workforce including by:
- Establishing arrangements for national VET governance, including for Australian Apprenticeships, led by industry;
- Re-designing a sustainable FEE-HELP scheme, including an overhaul of VET FEE-HELP parameters;
- Reforming the apprenticeship system, to focus on lifting both commencements and completions and including higher level qualifications and a wider range of industries;
- Developing and effectively resourcing a national STEM skills strategy in conjunction with industry to support the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

4. Workplace Relations: Making sensible improvements to the flexibility and integrity of our workplace relations arrangements is fundamental to the objectives of creating more competitive businesses and more high-productivity, high-wage jobs. Ai Group urges all parties to implement the many worthwhile recommendations of the recent Productivity Commission inquiry into the Workplace Relations Framework and the Heydon Royal Commission to make real progress in modernising our workplace relations arrangements and practices.

5. Innovation: Ai Group urges all parties to monitor and refine existing programs, and scale them up where merited; foster improved business-research collaboration; encourage innovation through government procurement; encourage more organisations to look for new opportunities; and to better equip them to realise and commercialise those opportunities.

6. Industry Policy: Improving Australia's business capabilities should remain a major policy priority. There are important roles for government in better informing businesses of the opportunities available under Australia's various trade agreements and for engagement in global supply chains; in investing in the Entrepreneurs' Programme aimed at lifting performance of small and medium-sized businesses; in raising awareness of digital capabilities, threats and opportunities; and in leveraging the benefits of enhanced domestic capabilities from defence industry investment. We also need to ensure that domestic capabilities are not undermined by an ineffective or unfair anti-dumping regime.

7. Infrastructure: We continue to support a strong program of rigorously assessed and prioritised infrastructure investment to lift national productivity and amenity and to address urban congestion. While important steps have been made, including in recent budget statements, there is still some way to go in building confidence in the integrity of decision-making over infrastructure investment.

8. Climate and Energy: We will maintain our focus on ensuring that Australia's energy markets work efficiently to deliver reliable supplies of competitively-priced energy for domestic industries and households. Ai Group supports progressing Australia's approaches to climate policy so that near and longer-term targets can be met at least cost and in ways that ensure investment certainty and competitiveness by unlocking efficient abatement across the domestic economy and by drawing on low-cost and credible abatement opportunities abroad.

9. Immigration: Ai Group continues to emphasise the importance of maintaining a permanent migration program that is predominantly focused on skilled migration. While aggregate unemployment and underemployment levels remain high, distinct areas of skill shortages are emerging in growing sectors and regions of the economy. It is critical therefore that we maintain a suite of flexible, temporary migration programs linked closely to the current skills needs of our economy.

Media Enquiries: Tony Melville 0419 190 347