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What business wants from Australia's next Parliament: results of ACCI’s national pre-election survey.



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ABN 85 008 391 795

A U S T R A L I A N C H A M B E R O F C O M M E R C E A N D I N D U S T R Y

Website: acci.asn.au

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L E A D I N G A U S T R A L I A N B U S I N E S S

MEDIA RELEASE May be reported on: Monday, September 10, 2001 What Business Wants from Australia’s Next Parliament Results of ACCI’s National Pre-Election Survey Statement by Mark Paterson, Chief Executive It is not just business that will be looking to the next government of Australia to provide economic leadership and direction, but it is the business community that is most dependent on sound and sensible economic management. It should be obvious that much of what is needed to create a productive economic environment are measures which allow businesses to continuously expand. ACCI has conducted a pre-election survey just as it did in 1996 and 1998. This is a survey conducted across Australia amongst employers in metropolitan, regional and rural communities. It has been conducted in every state and amongst firms of every size. It encompasses firms in all industry sectors. There were more than 2300 respondents to this survey. And what the survey does is make clear what business wants from the next government of Australia. It is a survey that identifies where the problems are and therefore makes clear where change is most in need. The largest problem is tax. The most important issue of concern to business is the frequency and complexity of changes to tax laws and rules. This is not a surprising result given the immense number of changes that business has had to contend with over the past year in learning to process the GST and in coming to terms with the Business Activity Statement in all its different forms. These were necessary reforms that will over time make the Australian economy more productive. But it should become the aim of the next government to leave major tax initiatives alone. The government should concentrate on improving, where it can, the efficiency and clarity of the tax measures that are now in place. But where business does seek change in regard to tax is made clear by the second most important issue and that is the level of taxation. Business wants lower taxes. The continuous resort to business taxation by governments as a soft target makes it continuously more difficult for business to invest or employ. High taxes are major obstacles to the performance of the economy. Lower tax rates will repay large dividends as faster growth will mean that higher tax revenues are ultimately returned to governments. By lowering the rate of taxation and the burdens placed on business, the eventual result is a more productive economy and therefore higher levels to tax receipts.

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The ten most important issues for the next government, according to this survey of business, are shown in the following list:

1. Frequency and complexity of changes to tax laws and rules 2. Level of taxation

3. Complexity of government regulations 4. Cost of compliance with government regulations 5. Telecommunications costs

6. Unfair dismissals legislation 7. Penalties for failure to comply with government regulations 8. Energy costs

9. Workers’ compensation payments 10. Superannuation Guarantee

Immediately after tax we find the problems associated with government regulation. No one seeks an end to regulation but the difficulties of understanding and then conforming to highly complex legislative rules only continues to worsen.

The complexity of government regulations is ranked third in this survey, the cost of compliance is ranked fourth and the penalties for failure to comply with such regulations is ranked seventh.

Business is trying to tell our legislators something that needs to be understood and to which they must respond. There really must be a focused effort made to reduce the problems associated with regulation. Excessive regulation is costing this economy huge amounts in lost productivity and is keeping our living standards far lower than they would otherwise reach.

Amongst the regulations that is highlighted especially by this survey are the problems related to the unfair dismissals legislation. Unfair dismissals ranks sixth in a list of 63. One may take it as a given that the unfair dismissals legislation, as it is now written, is inhibiting firms from employing. Unemployment is higher because of the concerns in the minds of business people about the effect this legislation has on their ability to manage the workplace.

It is no good to say that it is just a phantom in the minds of business and that the unfair dismissals legislation is really not the problem business seems to think. There are some legitimate cases of unfair dismissal. But this process has now become contaminated in a way that ensures unfair dismissal applications are a cost to business that has absolutely no return. It slows growth and makes firms more reluctant to hire. This is a problem that needs final resolution.

The problems facing business obviously extend beyond the first ten issues. There were 63 separate problems listed in the survey, each one of which will require a determination by our next government to achieve the outcomes sought. Although some are more urgent than others, each of the problems identified should be a reminder of how difficult it is to manage a business and that many of the solutions to these problems will rest in the hands of our next government.

For further comment, please contact: Mr Mark Paterson 02 6273 2311 (B/H) Chief Executive 0419 215 037 (mobile)