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Living standards to fall without budget repair, business lobby warns -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: A major business lobby group has warned that living standards in Australia are in jeopardy without significant budget repair.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has jumped on research showing Australia has fallen down the global competitiveness scale from tenth position to twenty-first over the past decade coming in behind Luxembourg.

The Chamber is backing Malcolm Turnbull's economic agenda and will today unveil an economic blueprint endorsing the Coalition's policies on innovation, tax reform and workplace relations.

ACCI's newly appointed chief executive James Pearson spoke in Sydney with our Business editor Peter Ryan.

JAMES PEARSON: If we want to maintain the high living standards that we have come to expect, that our parents expected for us and we naturally enough want to see for our children we have to become more competitive, we have to attract foreign capital, we have to encourage businesses at home to invest and grow, and we need to recognise that because business employs most Australians that's where the big economic lever is.

We talk about spending, it's important that we get government spending as a share of the gross domestic product of Australia down below 25 per cent.

It needs to be where we get it back to - and that's important because otherwise we are bequeathing debt to our kids.

PETER RYAN: Yesterday the Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens said there were "quite some years" of budget repair ahead and that Australia was exposed to an economic shock.

And we've been hearing a lot about jobs and growth during the election campaign, but after July 2, has the time come for real action?

JAMES PEARSON: We are living in an increasingly uncertain world and if we want to protect our economy, protect our high standards of living from global shocks then we need to make our economy more resilient.

PETER RYAN: Just on your top ten messages to the Government or whoever wins on July the 2nd you've nominated a 25 per cent company tax rate over ten years but Labor is arguing that the threshold of $10 million is too high.

Is a $10 million a small or a medium or a large business?

JAMES PEARSON: A $10 million turnover is not a big business and frankly we are getting a little bit tired of this attempt to pit small business against big business. Small business, big business they need each other.

And what we need to recognise is that most of us are employed by business by the private sector.

PETER RYAN: You're also backing the return of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, that would put you on the conservative side of politics, so are you backing the Government in for this election?

JAMES PEARSON: We want to see the Australian Building and Construction Commission restored - not just to put an end to misconduct and thuggery on the nation's building sites but because the construction industry in Australia is one of the most important parts of our economy.

And so days lost to industrial disputes, extra costs on building, they flow through the whole economy.

PETER RYAN: But is this just Workchoices by another name? Given the pressure that we are seeing constantly to tighten up wages and conditions for workers?

JAMES PEARSON: Workchoices is a ghost story told by the union movement. It really belongs to the past. There are over 100 awards governing work place conditions across the Australian economy in different industries.

That's a handbrake on growth.

The Fair Work Act alone has around 1,000 sections. It has over 200,000 words. That's hardly a streamlined system for a modern, dynamic economy, which is what our country needs.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: James Pearson, the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with our Business editor Peter Ryan.