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Bush at centre of economic transformation

4 November 2019

This opinion article by incoming Business Council president Tim Reed was published in Australian Community Media newspapers on 2 November 2019.

The economy is changing and so is the way we work.

After 18 months travelling around regional Australia, The Business Council has seen first-hand how regional Australians are making incredible efforts as old industries evolve and new ones develop.

Regional Australians are alive to the challenges but they’re enthusiastic about the opportunities.

And there are some incredible success stories, whether it’s food tech businesses taking on the world from Geelong, world leading renewable energy projects in Toowoomba or thriving agriculture in Bathurst.

But we’ll need to do more together to lock in the next wave of economic growth and lift the living standards of all Australians.

We’ve heard the message loud and clear, and it’s one we’re taking back to Canberra and the state capitals. We can’t build a stronger Australia without stronger regions.

More than ever before regional Australia will lead the way in meeting the challenges of change.

First, we need to get our skills system right. We can’t let a system designed in the eighteenth century limit our opportunities in the twenty-first.

Unleashing the potential of regional Australia means giving people the skills they need now to build vital infrastructure and get new projects going, it also means letting them adapt quickly to change.

That’s why we’ve proposed reforms to let workers upskill and reskill quickly, dipping into the system to pick up the qualifications they need as they need them, supported by a life-long skills account.

The second challenge will be getting rid of outdated and inefficient regulation that holds up big, job creating projects and stifles innovation. 

There is nothing more frustrating for Australians in regional areas than watching projects that could bring new jobs to their hometowns languish through duplicated approvals processes only to start years after they are proposed, or worse not at all.

Red tape slows down businesses and services, it means we pay more and it makes it harder to get new businesses off the ground.

Creating new jobs and sensible regulation are not mutually exclusive.

And finally, we must lift investment across the whole economy because it’s investment that funds new projects and breathes life in regional towns. But right now business investment is in the doldrums.

We used to have a tax rate well below the average in the developed world, today we’re 3rd in the world.

If the parliament won’t act to reduce our company tax rate, Australia needs alternative tax arrangements that encourage existing businesses to keep growing, new businesses to get started and to get new major projects off the ground.  

Regional Australia is rich with potential and we know what needs to be done to unlock it, now it’s just a matter of getting on with the job.