Being pro-worker equals being pro-business

IN IT TOGETHER: Alana Matheson says it's time for a mature reflection of how to position Australian business for the future.
IN IT TOGETHER: Alana Matheson says it's time for a mature reflection of how to position Australian business for the future.

Australia is operating in a global marketplace and labour market.

Australians and the organisations they work for are increasingly competing for work and business opportunities.

With the private sector employing nine out of 10 working Australians, it’s clear that our security of work and high living standards depend on the viability and success of the businesses that generate job opportunities.

This is why the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese’s recognition that politicking designed to drive a wedge between businesses and those who work in them is unhealthy for our country.

However, recent events have seen the promotion of policies openly hostile to hard working small and medium business people and middle-income earners.

The success of a business is not only in the interests of its shareholders. It’s also in the interests of those who work in and for them.

The simple truth is, you cannot be pro-worker without being pro-business.  

It is time for the business bashing to stop – and for a mature and sober reflection of how best to position Australia for the future.

The success of our businesses is vital for the broader community.

The more productive work we generate, the more Australian taxpayers are employed, lessening the burden for all.

The more revenue generated by business activity and employment, the more government can invest in infrastructure, health care and education.

Despite attempts to sow division, the fact is the business community also has a clear interest in seeing prosperity and high living standards spread across our communities.

Aside from the social and community benefits, a prosperous society sees more people invest in Australian products and services.

The business community has a strong interest in working toward the conditions and policies that support a growing, high employment, high income economy that does not create inflationary pressures.

The jobs and careers we can generate for today’s young people and future generations depend on the foundation we provide for our businesses to navigate changing markets and a globalising world.

Policies hostile to business send a bad message.

If businesses and employers are to compete effectively, we instead need to have a clear value proposition for investing and doing business in Australia.

There are a few key areas in which we must start to do better.

We need a competitive taxation system that avoids duplication, complexity and over-taxation, encourages risk taking and entrepreneurship and attracts our share of global investment.

We are a high tax nation, and policies that seek to reverse the relief extended to small and medium businesses are a kick in the guts and send a terrible message to potential investors and the rest of the world.

Australia must also ensure businesses have secure, reliable, and affordable supplies of energy. 

This is a fundamental prerequisite for doing business in any country.

Building newer, better and more cost-effective infrastructure, including digital and communication infrastructure that meets business and community needs, must be another top priority.

We need to help our businesses spend more time on value added activities and less time on compliance and paperwork.

More regulation is not the answer to our competitive challenges, but smarter regulation must be part of the solution.

We need be able to provide working conditions and environments that work for businesses and the people working in them.

Businesses and people working in them should not be hamstrung by outdated rules that do no more than serve the interests of unions that represent fewer than 10 per cent of Australians working in the private sector.

Businesses cannot be expected to pay massive additional penalties for trading at times that customers want them to open.

We need co-operative, not combative, workplaces and policy and regulation must help ensure this.

If Australia is to remain a high-income country that supports high employment and living standards, we need to produce goods and provide services that are competitive and that meet evolving customer demands.

We are going to need the skills needed to deliver these high-value, high-quality goods and services.

More than a billion new online workers will join global labour markets over the next 20 years and technology means they will be able to deploy their skills without the geographical limitations of the past.

Australian businesses already pay the highest national minimum wages in the world and face high levels of taxation and regulation.

If some get their way, business taxes will be higher still.

We cannot ask our businesses to employ more people unless we deliver the policy settings that will better support them in doing business, growing their businesses and creating jobs.

Alana Matheson is deputy director of workplace relations for the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.