THE NEW Federal Government led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made decisive steps to streamline government departments by amalgamating many focal sectors into broader portfolios. In some ways it is a Back to the Future approach, with some Federal Ministers assuming portfolios they handled in the John Howard years.

Tony Abbott has elevated Small Business and tightened up other Departments' scope.


“First term governments are best served by Cabinets with extensive ministerial experience,” Mr Abbott said. “ Fifteen members of the incoming Cabinet have previous ministerial experience.”

“The simplification of ministerial and departmental titles reflects my determination to run a ‘back to basics’ government. The Cabinet will be assisted by a strong team of ministers with proven capacity to implement the Government’s policies.”

In a landmark move, Small Business has gained a stand-alone presence in the new Federal Cabinet.

“Small business employs almost one in two Australians and its stand-alone presence in Cabinet acknowledges its role in job creation,” Mr Abbott said.

He described Small Business Minister Bruce Billson as “an evangelist for small business” who will drive the Government’s small business agenda.

Incoming Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss is also the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, with a focus on “ensuring the Government delivers on its major infrastructure commitments across Australia” said Mr Abbott.

Jamie Briggs is the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development “with specific responsibility for roads and delivery of our election commitments across metropolitan and regional Australia”.

Julie Bishop is Minister for Foreign Affairs in a position that takes on added responsibility of Australia’s new role on the United Nations Security Council and as Chair of the G20 from December 1 for 2014.Senator Brett Mason is Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Secretary.

Helping Australian business recover and grow to create more jobs is the focus for Senator Eric Abetz as Minister for Employment, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Public Service and Leader of the Government in the Senate.

As part of this pendulum swing, Mr Abbott said the Coalition Government would restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, return the industrial relations pendulum to the sensible centre and re-invigorate Work for the Dole.

Luke Hartsuyker is Assistant Minister for Employment and Deputy Leader of the House.Senator George Brandis QC is Attorney-General, Minister for the Arts and Vice President of the Executive Council. Mr Abbott said he would be responsible for establishing a bipartisan process “that will lead to a referendum and recognition of indigenous Australians in the Constitution”.

Michael Keenan is Minister for Justice.“Strengthening the economy, lifting productivity and turning around Australia’s competitive decline will be at the heart of the new Government,” Mr Abbott said.

“As Treasurer, Joe Hockey will lead the Government’s work to restore the Budget position and grow a stronger economy. Senator Mathias Cormann, as Minister for Finance, will be responsible for delivering better value for taxpayers. “

Senator Arthur Sinodinos AO will be Assistant Treasurer. His lifetime of experience in the public sector will provide further strength to our economic team."

Steven Ciobo is Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and Michael McCormack Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.

Barnaby Joyce is Minister for Agriculture. Mr Abbott said Mr Joyce would be “working to fulfil Australia’s potential as the food bowl of Asia”.

“The agricultural opportunities for Northern Australia in particular are immense,” the Prime Minister said. Senator Richard Colbeck is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture.

An area of major streamlining for the new Government is education, where many strands have been pulled into one.

Christopher Pyne is Minister for Education and Leader of the House and Mr Abbott said he was determined to “work with the states and territories to deliver real improvements across all aspects of education”.

“Labor’s decision to split education across multiple portfolios hindered the capacity of different parts of the system to work together to improve educational standards,” Mr Abbott said.

Sussan Ley is Assistant Minister for Education and Mr Abbott said she would continue her work with child care and early childhood education.

Senator Scott Ryan is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education.

Ian Macfarlane has returned to the role as Minister for Industry having held this portfolio during the last two terms of the Howard Government.

“Mr Macfarlane’s experience and record of success will be invaluable as we seek to build more competitive industries across Australia,” Mr Abbott said.

“The new Industry portfolio will include responsibility for energy and resources.

”Bob Baldwin MP is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry.

Kevin Andrews is  Minister for Social Services, responsible for the largest area of expenditure and payments in the Budget. The new department will also be responsible for settlement services, multicultural affairs and the administration of aged care.

Senator Mitch Fifield is Assistant Minister for Social Services responsible for the development of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and aged care.

Senator Marise Payne is Minister for Human Services. Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services with special responsibility for multicultural affairs and settlement services.

Malcolm Turnbull is Minister for Communications. He has promised to deliver a new business plan for the National Broadband Network (NBN) which will deliver fast broadband “sooner and at less cost”.

Paul Fletcher is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications.

Peter Dutton is Minister for Health and Minister for Sport. Senator Fiona Nash is Assistant Minister for Health.

Mr Abbott said responsibility for mental health will rest with Peter Dutton, “ensuring responsibility for this issue remains in Cabinet”.

Andrew Robb is Minister for Trade and Investment, with a focus on expanding Australia’s participation in free trade agreements (FTAs).

David Johnston is Minister for Defence. He will drive the development of the Defence White Paper as well as overseeing the Coalition’s defence procurement programme.

Senator Michael Ronaldson is Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Special Minister of State and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC. Stuart Robert is Assistant Minister for Defence with responsibility for personnel matters.

Darren Chester is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence.

Greg Hunt is Minister for the Environment and his early focus is on abolishing the carbon tax, implementation of the Coalition’s Direct Action plan, the establishment of the Green Army and the creation of “a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals”. Senator Simon Birmingham is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment with special responsibility for water.

Scott Morrison is Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Senator Michaelia Cash is Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Senator Cash is also Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women.

“Recognising its key role in border protection, Customs will be in this portfolio,” Mr Abbott said.

Fulfilling an election promise, the  administration of indigenous affairs will move into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator Nigel Scullion will be Minister for Indigenous Affairs.


Recognising the value of deregulation to improving Australia’s productivity, responsibility for driving the Government’s deregulation agenda will shift to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Josh Frydenberg and Alan Tudge will be the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretaries.

Bronwyn Bishop will be the new Speaker of the House.

Warren Entsch will chair a new Joint Parliamentary Committee on Northern Australia.

Philip Ruddock has agreed to be Chief Government Whip. Nola Marino and Scott Buchholz have also agreed to be Whips. Mark Coulton is the Nationals’ Chief Whip.

The Senate Whips are elected by the Liberal and Nationals Senate Party Rooms. The current Senate Whips are Senator Helen Kroger (Chief Government Whip), Senator David Bushby (Deputy Government Whip), Senator Chris Back (Deputy Government Whip) and Senator John Williams (Nationals Whip).

“This is an experienced and talented team. It will deliver results for the Australian people from day one,” Mr Abbott said. 

Federal Government Ministries:

Prime Minister:  Tony Abbott
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Leader of the Nationals:  Warren Truss.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party: Julie Bishop.

Minister for Employment, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Public Service, Leader of the Government in the Senate: Senator Eric Abetz.
Attorney-General, Minister for the Arts, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate,  Vice-President of the Executive Council: Senator George Brandis QC
Treasurer: Joe Hockey.
Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Leader of the Nationals: Barnaby Joyce.
Minister for Education, Leader of the House: Christopher Pyne.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Leader of the Nationals in the Senate: Senator Nigel Scullion
Minister for Industry: Ian Macfarlane.
Minister for Social Services: Kevin Andrews.
Minister for Communications: Malcolm Turnbull.
Minister for Health, Minister for Sport : Peter Dutton.
Minister for Small Business: Bruce Billson.
Minister for Trade and Investment: Andrew Robb.
Minister for Defence: Senator David Johnston.
Minister for the Environment: Greg Hunt.
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection: Scott Morrison.
Minister for Finance: Senator Mathias Cormann.




IT MAY have been dominated by discussions on the war in Syria, but the G20 Leaders' Summit in St Petersburg last week was far from the failure described by many sections of the mainstream media. Significant progress was made on global trade, jobs, tax, anti-corruption and finance issues, according to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

Business progress was high on the agenda at the St Petersburg G20 Leaders Summit.


According to the ICC, the G20 Summit maintained a focus on shared economic objectives for re-balancing the world economy through sustainable growth and jobs.

Among the detailed commitments was the G20 declaration's call to achieve a trade facilitation agreement at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in December.

This standalone agreement could increase global GDP by US$960 billion annually, generate US$1 trillion in world export gains, and thereby create 21 million new jobs, according to a recent study commissioned by the ICC and conducted by the Peterson Institute.

The untold business story from St Petersburg was the steady progress G20 leaders are achieving between Summits on their shared economic agenda to increase sustainable growth and encourage job creation.

"The substantive nature and the deep degree of policy stewardship embodied in the Leaders' declaration is evidence that the annual Summit is only the most visible part of an ongoing, collaborative and productive process that has evolved since the G20's inception at head of state level in 2009," said ICC secretary general Jean-Guy Carrier.

"The work carried out by G20 officials over the last year has produced agreements on trade, trade finance, protectionism, taxation, anti-corruption and other measures central to the global business agenda."

G20 leaders spoke confidently about the value of their deliberations and conveyed highlights of their work programme to business leaders invited to a special session for social partners.

Members of the ICC delegation participating in the so-called Business-20 meeting with G20 Leaders included Mr Carrier, ICC chairman and president Harold (Terry) McGraw III, who is also the chairman, president and CEO of McGraw Hill Financial; ICC G20 Advisory Group chairman Marcus Wallenberg, who is also chairman of Sweden's SEB; and Mexico's Cinépolis CEO Alejandro Ramirez.

During the meeting, French President Francois Hollande told business leaders, "Agreements reached between G20 governments have the objective of creating economic growth and jobs, particularly for the young. We have also given a strong signal on trade, and there is a convergence of interests to agree."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized that the G20 had agreed strong measures to fight protectionism, which she said is the worst enemy of jobs and of growth.

President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso highlighted the importance of the G20's extension of the stand-still on protectionist measures to 2016 and the G20's consensus to "get a deal done" at the December WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali.

"ICC has been promoting policy recommendations to the G20 on these issues for several years," the ICC's Mr Carrier said.

"It's both rewarding to see progress and gratifying to receive endorsement from G20 leaders on the crucial role of Business-20 contributions," said Mr Carrier.

"The special session for social partners, held within the framework of the G20 Leaders' Summit, represented a significant development in the ongoing government-business dialogue in the G20 since Korea sponsored the first Business-20 Summit in 2010."

For the fourth consecutive year since Seoul, ICC and CEOs of the ICC G20 Advisory Group served as a strategic partner in the Business-20, holding leadership positions in the policy development process, publishing recommendations and progress reports on G20 implementation, and meeting with G20 leaders, sherpas and government officials.

"Remarks from UK Prime Minister David Cameron, reiterating that the G20 takes business issues seriously, are encouraging," Mr Carrier said. "This validates our mission, as the voice of international business, to press for the inclusion of business priorities in deliberations by G20 leaders."

Business attaches great importance to the G20 process, especially given that many of today's major economic problems require a global approach.

The ICC prepared a concise list of progressive outcomes emerging from discussions at St Petersburg:

  • The G20's agreement to freeze the introduction of protectionist measures by extending the standstill agreement until 2016 is a significant achievement amidst different perspectives on trade, and one that, due to the resolve and commitment of G20 nations, will stabilize conditions to generate growth and more jobs. If the G20 builds on this type of consensus and begins the process of removing trade barriers, global GDP could increase by as much as US$7 trillion.
  • In the face of proliferating Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs), the timely recognition by the G20 of the need to ensure consistency between RTAs and WTO principles and rules for the multilateral trading system provides essential leadership to the world's trading partners, especially with the emergence of preferential trade pacts between large trading blocks and in a world where trade is increasingly organized on the basis of global supply chains.
  • The G20 mandate to the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) can be strengthened by including an assessment of the impact of banking regulations on trade finance so as to avoid restricting the availability, stability and sustainability of trade finance. Increasing the availability of trade finance by 5% could increase global production and jobs by 2%.
  • The G20 commitment "... to facilitate domestic capital market development and improve the intermediation of global savings for productive long-term investments, including in infrastructure and to improve access to financing for SMEs" is critical to encouraging private sector investment and SME generated jobs and growth. ICC, through its network of more than 6 million companies, stands ready to work with the G20 and intergovernmental organizations to realize these objectives.
  • In the lead-up to Australia 2014, ICC encourages G20 leaders to mandate multilateral development banks and international financial institutions to frame and promulgate global project preparation guidelines for sustainable infrastructure projects. These measures will help identify 'bankable projects' for investors and provide the confidence to begin supplying capital to the US$600 billion annual shortfall in infrastructure investment projected over the next 25 years.
  • The establishment of a high-standard multilateral framework for investment, led by G20 countries and based on ICC Guidelines for International Investment could help restore FDI flows by as much as 25% and help create a more stable and predictable investment environment while lifting impediments to the mobilization of private capital.
  • ICC has for many years led the fight against corruption on behalf of world business and therefore welcomes continuation of the dialogue between the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group and the Business-20 group on anti-corruption, as an effective means to reduce remaining challenges. Implementation of Business-20 recommendations could result in the eradication of $1 trillion in bribes, and lead to a 1% increase in economic growth in developing countries and a 5% increase in investment.
  • The G20 endorsement of the OECD action plan addressing base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) is a welcome development. As the G20 takes its BEPS work forward, ICC encourages close consultation with the business community to develop an international tax system that promotes the transparent and non-discriminatory treatment of foreign investment and earnings and eliminates obstacles to trade and investment.
  • The extended mandate for the G20 Energy Sustainability Working Group (ESWG) is important to the G20's ability to address cross-border sustainable development challenges, clean energy, and energy efficiency. A key priority for the G20 should be to address recurring business recommendations on energy efficiency, especially given their potential to spur investments and reduce economic leakages caused by inefficient energy consumption. Energy efficiency improvements have the potential to generate $1 trillion in annual energy cost savings in the OECD alone. 

The Australian representatives on the ICC G20 Advisory Group were Corrs Chambers Westgarth CEO and partner John Denton and ANZ Bank CEO Michael Smith. However another key contributor is Australia's Andrew Liveris who is chairman and CEO of the Dow Chemical Company, headquartered in the United States, who has also been on US President Barack Obama's economic advistory panel.

Other members of the Business-20 group include Yassin S. Al-Suroor, president and CEO, A'amal Group (Saudi Arabia); Cesar Alierta Izuel, executive chairman, Telefonica (Spain); Emilio Azcarraga Jean, CEO, Televisa (Mexico); Antonio Brufau, Chairman & CEO, Repsol (Spain); Paul Bulcke, CEO, Nestle (Switzerland); Carlos Bulgheroni, Chairman, Bridas Corporation (Argentina); Kimball Chen, Chairman & CEO, Energy Transportation Group (United States); Marijn Dekkers, CEO, Bayer (Germany); Eduardo Eurnekian, Chairman and CEO, Corporacion America (Argentina); Pierre Froidevaux Chavan, Chairman, ICC Mexico (Mexico); Victor K Fung, Chairman, Li & Fung (Hong Kong); Kris Gopalakrishnan, Executive Vice Chairman of Infosys Ltd (India); Ilham Habibie, CEO and President Director, PT Il Thabi Bara Utama (Indonesia); Rifat Hisarc?kl?oglu, Chairman, Eskihisar Group and President of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (Turkey); Alexander Izosimov, Partner, Deep Roots Capital (Russia); Sheikh Al-Thani Khalifa, Member of the Board of Directors, Doha Insurance and Chairman of Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Qatar); Seung Youn Kim, CEO, Hanwha (Korea); Young Tae Kim, Chairman, Daesung (Korea); David Kinyua,, Chairman, Aberdares Water Company (Kenya); Gérard Mestrallet, CEO, GDF Suez (France); Yogendra Kr. (YK) Modi, chairman and CEO, Great Eastern Energy (India); Raghu Mody, chairman, The Rasoi Group (India); Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO, Novozymes (Denmark); Mahendra Sanghi, chairman, MK Sanghi Group (India); Martin Senn, CEO, Zurich Insurance Group (Switzerland); Jean-Pascal Tricoire, president and CEO, Schneider Electric (France); Peter Voser, CEO, Royal Dutch Shell (United Kingdom/Netherlands); Gérard Worms, vice chairman, Rothschild Europe and chairman of the ICC (France); and Zola Tsotsi, chairman, Eksom Holdings (South Africa).


* ICC is the largest, most globally representative business organisation in the world. Its global network comprises more than six million companies, chambers of commerce and business associations in more than 130 countries, with interests spanning every sector of private enterprise. ICC represents business views and priorities to the United Nations network of agencies, the World Trade Organization, the G20 and other international and regional intergovernmental bodies. ICC's worldwide network of national committees operates at the doorstep of governments in over 90 countries, enabling ICC to channel business priorities to policymakers and stakeholders where it matters most. More than 2000 experts drawn from ICC's member companies feed their knowledge and experience into crafting the ICC stance on specific business issues.

The Peterson Institute report, Payoff from the World Trade Agenda 2013, can be found at:


MANUFACTURING Australia is taking the bold tack of highlighting Australia's distinct manufacturing advantages, rather than focusing on its immediate challenges, in a move driven by the association's new chairman.

Sue Morphet: MA aims to invigorate manufacturing in Australia.

Manufacturing Australia (MA) chairman Sue Morphet stepped into the role a few weeks ago and immediately congratulated the Federal Government and Opposition on "significant progress made on some reforms to support Australia's manufacturing sector, notably in the anti-dumping area" over the past year.

Ms Morphet, who was formerly CEO of Pacific Brands and fought to save manufacturing jobs by keeping most of the group's high profile manufacturing in Australia, despite having to relinquish many of its clothing brands to China production, took over from Dick Warburton, who retired at the end of 2012.

Ms Morphet said while MA, a business coalition of Australia's biggest manufacturers, congratulated Australia's political leaders and those in the wider industry "who have helped realise these reforms" but warned "now is not the time to pause for reflection".

She said manufacturing is the value-adding lifeblood of a balanced Australian economy.

"Through job creation, import replacement and maximising the value of our natural resources, manufacturing delivers tremendous benefits to the nation," Ms Morphet said. "MA members share a common goal: to create and retain Australian manufacturing jobs, by growing our sector and working with governments and stakeholders to address the challenges facing many manufacturing industries. This will be achieved through broad innovation, good policy and workplace flexibility.

"We stand for a fair level playing field, a sound commercial and regulatory environment that attracts investment and a representative voice to raise the calibre of national debate on the issues affecting the sector."

Ms Morphet is advocating sensible, strategic public policies that encourage Australian manufacturing to grow the sector's capacity, create jobs and maximise the value returned to all Australians.

MA has developed a policy document, Australia's Manufacturing Advantage, which it has distributed to government. The strategy outlines three key policies that can make a real difference to the competitiveness and sustainability of Australian manufacturing.

 "Through smart policy and strategic investments, our sector can in the next decade directly and indirectly create 100,000 new jobs and drive a manufacturing resurgence throughout rural, regional and outer-suburban Australia," Ms Morphet said.

She said MA intends to continue working with the Australian Federal and State Governments as well as industry to ensure fair and appropriate industry policies, and to secure the future of this sector.

The three areas for manufacturing reform identified by the MA report are:


Australia is an energy and resources superpower. Currently, domestic energy policies largely fail to capitalise on this energy advantage. Unlike countries that identify and exploit their natural advantages, Australia is squandering its own. 

MA believes that Australia can seize its energy advantage by:

  • Creating a domestic gas market that enables value-adding manufacturing alongside gas exports;
  • Ensuring electricity reforms prioritise maintaining Australia's energy advantage;
  • Making the Renewable Energy Target a percentage, not an absolute number; and,
  • Removing the disadvantage of introducing a carbon tax that is not consistent with Australia's trading partners.



Australia is a trade orientated economy that has prospered over the last 30 years by pursuing an open trade agenda. Mismanagement of open trade can easily lead to unintended consequences such as dumping and exclusion of domestic manufacturers from domestic markets. This undermines fairness and limits growth and development in domestic manufacturing.

MA is seeking fair outcomes for trade exposed industries which will operate within World Trade Organisation guidelines and allow Australia's manufacturing sector to grow.

 MA has identified three priority areas for action by Federal and State Governments:

  • Overhaul coastal shipping regulations to ensure Australian manufacturers are not disadvantaged.
  • Strengthen anti-dumping powers to stop predatory dumping and circumvention of dumping duties by foreign importers, address currency manipulation and provide redress against subsidies to foreign manufacturers.
  • Strengthen industry participation schemes to remove ‘gaming' and ensure they meet their intended aim of boosting Australian involvement in major projects. 



To grow Australian manufacturing, two significant obstacles must be overcome. First, industry, governments and communities alike must shift the perception that manufacturing in Australia is a ‘sunset' industry whose future will be marked by continued decline. Second, government policy settings should recognise and address unfair barriers currently placed on domestic manufacturers.

 MA has identified five priority areas for action by Federal and State Governments:

  • Maximise competitiveness through investment in infrastructure.
  • Promote research and development.
  • Strengthen industry-linked training to up-skill Australia's manufacturing workforce.
  • Increase the flexibility of Australian manufacturing workplaces.
  • Strengthen regulations that stimulate demand and remove the burden of regulations that do not.




IT IS NOT the kind of record that any Australian Government wants to set -- an estimated 2.47 million people out of work. February's unemployment figures are an all-time record, according to Roy Morgan Research.

Glass half full or half empty? Like Australian employment statistics, it depends on your methodology.

Yet the results seem to be in stark contrast to official Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) polls favoured by the Australian Government and official agencies, currenly touting about 5.4 percent unemployment nationally.

The reason for the discrepancy is simple: different methodologies. Roy Morgan Research has been conducting the same unemployment polls nationally since 1948, and still uses the same methodology. As pointed out in a January report on the Business Acumen website, the ABS changed its methodology in 2006 and now uses a smaller sample polling method that regards someone as employed if they have had as little as one hour of work in any week of the survey period or have been unavaIlable for work for any reason.

The Roy Morgan poll also has separate figuRes for the 'under-employed' -- those who are seeking more work, such as part-timers and contractors. The ABS monthly poll does not survey underemployment.

"The latest Roy Morgan unemployment estimate of 10.9 percent is more than double the 5.4 percent currently quoted by the ABS for January 2013," said Roy Morgan executive chairman, Gary Morgan.

Roy Morgan's February employment estimates show Australian unemployment rate unchanged at 10.9 percent, totalling 1.36 million people unemployed, up 33,000 in a month.

Mr Morgan classified it as "a new record high figure".

"Australia's under-employment rose 45,000 to 1,113,000 meaning a record high 2.473 million (up 78,000) Australians (19.8%, up 0.1%) are either unemployed or under-employed," he said.

"Although total employment rose 105,000 to 11,151,000 over the last 12 months (full-time employment up 89,000 to 7,497,000 and part-time employment up 16,000 to 3,654,000), there was a far greater rise in total Australian unemployment and under-employment - now up a significant 329,000 over the past 12 months.

"These figures clearly show that the Australian economy remains in a weakened state with record high unemployment and under-employment. The economy clearly needs extra stimulation and in the run-up to the Federal Election our politicians will find it harder to provide the leadership in improving the Australian economy we all require.

"The uncertain political situation means the RBA was wrong to leave interest rates unchanged at 3 percent and must recommence cutting interest rates at the earliest opportunity.

"Australian interest rates are amongst the highest in the world and international news backs up the argument that the RBA must re-start lowering interest rates immediately."

Mr Morgan said at the time of this monthy's RBA interest rate decision, the Dow Jones Index in the US closed at a record high of 14,253.77.

"This is the first time the Dow Jones has closed at a record high since the beginning of the Global Financial Crisis," he said. "However, in Australia the All Ordinaries Index is currently around 5,100, which is around 1,700 points (25%) below its record high above 6,800 reached more than five years ago in November 2007.

"In addition, news today from the ABS National Accounts provides a worrying illustration of Australia's economic situation with the southern States of Australia - Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania now all in recession, as well as the ACT - all of which have now recorded two quarters of negative growth during the latter half of 2012."


* In February 2013 an estimated 1.36 million Australians (10.9% of the workforce) were unemployed. This is virtually unchanged from last month but is the equal highest rate of unemployment since January 2002. The Australian workforce* was 12,511,000, comprising 7,497,000 full-time workers (up 301,000); 3,654,000 part-time workers (up 38,000) and 1,360,000 looking for work (up 33,000) according to Roy Morgan.

* A further 1,113,000 Australians were under-employed - working part-time and looking for more work. This is 45,000 more than a month ago, and represents 8.9% of the workforce* (up 0.1%).

* In total 2.473 million Australians (19.8% of the workforce) were unemployed or under-employed in February. This is up 0.1% or 78,000 more than last month and also up a large 329,000 (2.3%) over the past 12 months since February 2012.

* In February an estimated 649,000 Australians (down 95,000) were looking for full-time work, a trend in February that has happened in seven out of the last 10 years, while a record high 711,000 (up a large 128,000) are now looking for part-time work. Considerably higher than the rise a year ago of 17,000.
* The Roy Morgan survey on Australia's unemployment and ‘under-employed'* is based on weekly interviews covering January 2007 - February 2013 and in total 319,145 Australians aged 14 and over were interviewed face-to-face including 3,964 interviews in February 2013.


GOOD GOVERNANCE - that most elusive of corporate and public sector behaviours - is more likely to be the key to Australia's progressive economic future than the more usually discussed maxims of productivity growth and innovation. That will be one of the unexpected messages at the Innovation Series luncheon today (May15) from a CSIRO scientist.

Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, CSIRO.


But governance in an inter-connected world is an emerging trend that CSIRO principal scientist Dr Stefan Hajkowicz is both focussed upon and curious about.  CSIRO research has identified key megatrends and ‘megashocks' that will directly impact Australian business in its report Our Future World: An analysis of global trends, shocks and scenarios - and Dr Hajkowicz is the lead author of that report.

Of course, good governance delivers the conditions that allow innovation, creativity and industry to flourish - but it is rarely discussed in such economic terms.  

The research reveals many elements and mega-trends that are already being adapted to by business, in order to navigate a challenging world. Dr Hajkowicz will discuss those at an Innovation Series luncheon at The Westin Sydney on Wednesday - addressing the topic Innovate to Navigate: developing corporate strategy and foresight to meet global trends, shocks and rapid change, along with senior director for the Strategic Transformations division of Cisco Services Sales, Vlada Majanovic, and Gerhard Vorster, the Chief Strategy Officer for Deloitte Australia and Asia Pacific.

But as he progresses with his research, Dr Hajkowicz is seeing enormous disruption to traditional governance models - and lack of governance - having an enormous impact in a world that is dealing with brand new information flows, such as social media. The impact on Australian business is real and complex.

 "One of the megatrends we want to introduce and give more purchase to is thinking about governance," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"We are moving into new digital technologies, and things like social media, which are impacting in complicated ways. It is making big changes in big organisations - and governance and information flows are scattered.

"We (could) call this megatrend spaghetti governance. This is an increasingly complex world. Network governance models are rising to respond to these different needs that are there.

"There is a big confusion or complexity factor in how to govern today, that was not there so much before, because of the global interconnectivity and the extended trade links, plus the social media phenomenon which means that people get their information from a lot of different sources," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"One individual can write a song to say United breaks his guitars and uploads it to YouTube and it hits 12 million viewers and the share price plummets. One person can do that. That's changed the nature of information flows.

"A lot of the problems that I look into find their root cause around governance."

Another governance-related megatrend that directly impacts what has traditionally been Australia's most successful business - agriculture - is food security. It is also a golden opportunity for Australian agribusiness and food manufacturing.

"Food security is one that we have looked into a lot and it stays there on the global agenda as a massive one," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"When food prices spiked in 2008 and again in 2011, hundreds of thousands of people were thrown into starvation and malnutrition which has deep and profound implications not just in terms of humanitarian crisis but also the instability that causes. A lot of people under food pressure are more likely to go radical and ... these destabilise and markets go haywire. Street prices go up, the riots go up.

"The world does not have a problem with making food. About 35 percent of all food that we create is never eaten. (Research) by the most credible world organisations shows that the world can make enough food to supply even a growing population," he said.

"No-one in Africa ever starved because no-one in that place could make enough food. It has only been down to conflict, corruption and governance failures.

"It is not fixed by more food production it is fixed by better governance," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"Food production is still something we need to work on, but we have had the green revolution and we have incredible capabilities. The more fundamental fix is associated with how human beings govern themselves. That is where a lot of the failure is occurring.

"The real fix for global food production is to focus a lot on the technology, as you really need that, but part of my effort would be in to how do we get governance systems to become more stable, democratic, and effective? That do not have the Robert Mugabes (tyrannical President of Zimbabwe who prompted a food crisis by seizing farmland for the state)."


THERE is already some evidence that Australia can take a lead in unexpected areas - including adapting and even exporting its successful governance models (for example, Abu Dhabi has adopted some of Brisbane's municipal governance models) - but in many ways Australia has to re-imagine its role in an inter-connected world.

"We are totally plugged into global markets and will be for a longer time to come. One of the graphs that is really powerful to me is the imports and exports for Australia since 1970, which were down here and just go up exponentially," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"There are no two ways about it, we are totally plugged in to global markets and that's how we have to start thinking in the development of our products. We have go to see less of a boundary around a domestic market as we are totally plugged in to these global markets and things interconnect whether we like it or not.

"We are a small country too. It is not like the US where they can develop and grow a product in a domestic market and then export it to the rest of the world. We don't have that luxury. We are a small country," he said.

"I liken Australia to Switzerland. We have a section (in the Our Future World report) in which we ask, can Australia be the Switzerland of Asia? We are a small, stable, wealthy boutique place within a much bigger region.

"We punch above our weight in a lot of areas but we are still pretty small. Can we get really smart about the niche industries that work for us that allow us to access these international markets?"

Dr Hajkowicz said even though manufacturing and tourism sectors were challenged at present by the high dollar, they were ripe for growth and development when considered in the ‘Switzerland of Asia' context.

"Tourism is another sector that I am working in at the moment," he said. "It is a volatile sector, but I reckon volatility may actually work in Australia's advantage.80 percent of  international tourist will change their destination on a whim if they have any concerns about safety. Disease, warfare, violence, those kind of things.

"Australia is actually very stable and very safe compared to a lot of the rest of the world. Even though it might be quite expensive to come here for a holiday, it might be worth it for a lot of people.

"The lines on tourism are already trending upwards. I think what has really kept tourism running in Australia is - European and US visitors have dropped off due to fiscal conditions - but in China and India and Taiwan and South Korea the numbers are going up. We are picking up that new market.

"What is also in the pipeline is that China may also lift its travel restrictions. A lot of young people there have been living in a fairly locked down system and suddenly they get all this freedom and they are ready to go and explore the world - and they are also cashed up. There is a new middle class there, basically, and Australian might be a great spot (for them) to come and do this sort of thing.

"Boeing are going to put 12,030 aircraft into the Asia Pacific region alone in the next 20 years to handle this need and we have had a lot of indications that they are moving from hub-to-hub travel to point-to-point, so specific locations in Asia might flow directly, say, to the Whitsundays.

"I am just picking that at random, but it could boom, potentially as a tourist destination. The planes like the Dreamliner, (Boeing 787), longer ranges, higher speed and lower fuel consumption, will be I think what we see.

"The big (Airbus) A380 market is there and it is meant to go from hub to hub - Sydney, Singapore, London - but it is in point-to-point where I think the growth is likely to happen.

"This could be what creates the opportunities for the tourist sector."

Dr Hajkowicz said a big opportunity for Australian tourism was simply in ‘plugging the leakage'.

"What is going on in the mindset of the Australian tourist? That is something we are looking in to about why and how this is evolving over time," he said. "This is not supported by data, but I have a feeling that as Australia matures, we actually recognise what we have got here and how valuable it is.

"So, to stop (Australians) going over to Bali or Phuket - to make you not want to, because it is better here. Two weeks on the Gold Coast for me can be more expensive than going to Phuket or Bali, definitely. Low cost airfares is a key behind all that.

"It's a Switzerland of Asia thing - that we will actually see that what we have right here is really quite special. That could see the leakage issue change."


FAR from Australia moving away from manufacturing, CSIRO research shows that the sector must adapt and is vital to Australia's development and future prosperity.

"Manufacturing is central because it does a couple of things," Dr Hajkowicz said. "It is really important for our innovation capabilities.

"There are a lot of things happening behind the scenes in manufacturing and all those innovations multiply throughout the economy. That's why it's so important that we retain the capability to ‘make stuff', because from that we can make a lot more stuff and do a lot more things. That also allows us to crank up the exports."

Largely because of energy cost advantages, US manufacturing is going through a renaissance.

"Their manufacturing sector is experiencing a reinvigoration, as it did in the United Kingdom, where it went through a very tough phase and then it went up again," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"There is no two ways about it, our manufacturing is in a tough phase, we have a lot of graphs showing industry revenue declining - but it is a fundamental thing, you can't have a successful economy running out there without a manufacturing sector.

"An economy requires manufacturing to be able to run a whole lot of other stuff. To do other stuff, you have to be able to make things. So much of what we have and do today has been made easy and possible because of manufacturing.

"So even jobs in the finance sector, service industry jobs, actors, doctors, lawyers, so much of it depends on someone making the stuff that can then enable other industries around it. A lot of industries are enabled by manufacturing," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"(Manufacturing development) that's one of the things for the nation. I think the other is around supply chain security so our supply chains are assured.

"Oil refineries are an example - we are seeing oil refineries close down in Australia and we are depending to a greater extent on offshore supply chains. The risk is that there are a lot of steps in place, (and) geo-political risk - whether intentionally or academically or by all sorts of processes - (supply chain security) is an issue there as well, I think, that is definitely worth contemplating."

Direct manufacturing is not the only opportunity for Australia. It may also provide manufacturing services to developing countries.

"There are strong global market forces at play here and that is the other sort of side of this is that we are seeing incredible growth in technological advancement capability, production capability in the Asia region - Hong Kong, China , Singapore, China, South Korea, Philippines, Taiwan - all these place have incredible advancement in their capability to produce and I think in the case of China it is not just cookie cutter type stuff," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"They have advanced R&D and (we have) old plants, some of which are being kept alive on WD40 ..." Dr Hajkowicz said the manufacture of high end technologies may be where we have advantages now, but even these are to become more highly competitive with Asia.

"So that's, I think, the landscape that we are moving into -- a period of challenges which we see in every direction.

 "(Manufacturers) are struggling to get investment capital to improve their plants, and that's why in years to come that will impact on our competitive capability. If we don't get that investment we will not have the capability to manufacture stuff," he warned.

"Can we run an economy in which we are all waiters and service people? I don't know. I think there are some issues myself.

"Sometimes we see an industry sector suffer for a while and then markets change in a way that is very hard to predict," Dr Hajkowicz said, saying Australian manufacturing should weather the storm.

"If you end up doing stuff in a set of circumstances and panic, and then circumstances change, you may lose doubly."


AUSTRALIAN business need to look at the mega-trends and anticipate how to navigate market changes - and there are plenty of indicators according to the CSIRO.

"Things are going on the over all around us that we need to sit up and take notice of," Dr Hajkowicz said. For example, "There is also a lot of evidence that steel production is China is starting to slow. That is a really important thing for Austalia.

"Steel consumption suggests to us that they are an economy in transition. Steel consumption is an indicator to us of where an economy might be up to in terms of its development.

"(Economies) go through an agrarian phase where we build up our agriculture, Then we go into an industrial phase where we build up a manufacturing sector to support our economy ... where we need to make train tracks and factories and so forth.

"But as that levels off, and there are signs of that in China, then the economy transitions into an advanced services sector and there is already an indication that is happening in the Chinese economy," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"I think the implications are that right now in Australia we need to be thinking about new markets. We have been looking at iron ore prices, for example, and they have come down, partly, due to softening of demand and partly due to competition from other countries. Same thing with gold.

"Australia has to look at what happens when the prices of those things come down. They have hit their spike.

"I am certainly not going to join the camp that says mining is a dirty old business and it is going to disappear - it's not. There is huge wind in it and I think it is going to stay important.

"But there are no two ways about it, we have got to look at diversification to stay strong when the prices of some of these commodities come down. Australia may need to diversify to more of an advanced services sector for Asia. We have to look into what those new growth spaces might be.

"With Australian mining the emphasis is on becoming more innovative and more efficient on how they extract ore bodies -- and our concentration (levels are) quite low now compared with many other countries. The concentrations of minerals within ore bodies here have declined over time because we have been mining the low hanging fruit," Dr Hajkowicz said.

He said Australia's innovation and experience could morph into advanced resources services businesses that work in other economies.

"You look at countries like Chile and South Africa and they have got very rich mineral reserves.  Africa they have not really developed the infrastructure yet, so competitive supplies from these countries could impact (supply to) China for us."

While the emerging Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industries held huge promise for Australia, they were also open to impact from other markets and local issues, such as environmental and agribusiness criticism.

 "The other thing is that of energy demand," Dr Hajkowicz said. "It will be interesting to see what the US does, because the US has an approach to energy security that means they do not export (energy). They may change that, which means they could export LNG and damage our markets."

He said Australia also should recognise an opportunity to use its LNG for local manufacturing, but there were market challenges.

"This is one that is complicated in a lot of aspects," Dr Hajkowicz said. "Certainly domestic manufacturing industries such as plastics, chemicals all need gas to be able to make stuff - high value-add products.

"Gas prices are very high and likely to increase in line with the LNG export. The sales to the gas market mean that we are going to get a lot of gas sales over there while it puts prices up domestically. And that will make it non-financially feasible for a lot of manufacturing to occur."


BOOMING Australian economies of the past had been characterised as ‘riding on the sheep's back'. While it may no longer be sheep that do all the heavy lifting, agribusiness remains Australia's brightest light well into the future, anticipating the mega-trends.

 "Agribusiness is likely to see incredible growth," Dr Hajkowicz said. "Agriculture, you can't say it is booming now, but the signals are there that it will boom at some point.

"Global food prices have started to reach all time highs. That graph seems to be bouncing around at an all time high, which has a humanitarian aspect to it and also opportunity for Australia to get in and supply the emerging markets. The world will add about another three billion people to its population by about 2050.

"We are seeing the (emerging countries') income growth occur and the diet shifting to high protein, and we are seeing agricultural land disappear (globally) at the rate of about 12 million hectares a year," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"And we are seeing energy demand continuing to rise and as energy prices go up, food prices go up. The world oil graph and the world food price do the same thing because there are some fundamental drivers in there. But the biggest ingredient to ‘making' food is oil.

"We see over the next 20 years continued strong global growth in food demand. I think Australia has the potential to get into a lot of the markets, if we understand them properly."

Dr Hajkowicz saidint he past 5-10 years the cost-price balance for farmers has stabilised and moved in a positive direction.

"That is because we have seen lots of productivity growth compared with other parts of the economy, "Dr Hajkowicz said. "We have seen a lot of changes in the agricultural sector, but a lot of farmers are not feeling it. We are telling them this good news economic story but I totally empathise with the position because it does not feel like it yet.

"But given time overall it does translate to growth in the agricultural sector and the creation of new opportunities. I can't see that it doesn't. I just point to macro economic data which points to opportunities in the space of agriculture.

"I think we see a resurgence of Australian agriculture over the period of decades, not years."

Dr Hajkowicz pointed to the outstanding positive impact of the Fonterra co-operative farmer shareholder system that has conquered fresh milk markets in Asia.

"Look at what Fonterra has achieved in New Zealand. That has been a really powerful story."

Apart from determined general market growth, Fonterra mobilised to fill the gaps in supply when there were a series of health scares in the China milk sector, and has accelerated that growth since. Fonterra has led the way in promoting New Zealand produce as safe, clean and green and this has even impacted positively in the tourism sector.

"I think it cuts across to other things that are there for Australia, like what the agribusiness achieves. In China, New Zealand milk is seen as lean and safe and environmentally friendly. They have done very well to position it in that way.

"Income growth translates for a demand for protein, milk, eggs, fish, meat, and that's the next wave. We can make a lot of the stuff they (emerging countries) want.

"Let's see what we can do about picking that up in Australia," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"This is what has come out of this tourism product by the Queensland Government - if we can be clean, green, safe and friendly , if we can knock off those four things, we can crack tourism. That is what they want.

"The potential tourist very much loves natural adventure type holidays - that has come out time and time again.

"Friendly, we move into a world where social interaction is a whole lot more important. The quality of a person's social interaction is a key differentiator in a world where the online environment provides everything we need," Dr Hajkowicz said.


WHERE Australia does have an entrepreneurial lead is in the online world - although many Australian start-ups are being snapped up by American investors and moved offshore.

Australia is at the head of early-stage markets being developed in online and micro finance.

"I'm interested by the micro finance approach (as) B2B (business-to-business) phenomena," Dr Hajkowicz said.

One example he had seen was a website that allowed owners to rent their homes out for short periods of time while they were away. Crowd sourced funding is another adaptation.

One online initiative, called Speed Rabbitm allows someone to broadcast that they want - say, someone to collect a parcel from the other side of town, right now - and an individual responds. A deal is struck and the payment is made online.

 "There are a whole of transactions out there that have wanted to happen but previously couldn't as we had no vehicle for it to occur," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"Once that closes, then the transaction costs are feasible to make this $20 payment worthwhile, as it has taken you a minute to post it and it has taken him a minute to respond, so that is all right.

"It is a more efficient utilisation of the resources in the economy because the information economy makes it easy," Dr Hajkowicz said. "eBay is an example of it, too.

"I think micro transactions - we can work on them. I think there has got to be growth in that sector."

The opportunities for growth in Australia are almost limitless, although many specifics remaon obscure at the moment, if Dr Hajkowicz's research is anything to go by.

Mega trends and mega shocks are, perhaps, new signposts for approaching business strategy by the old maxim: ‘Plan for the best, but prepare for the worst.'

•·        The Innovation Series luncheon in Sydney on Wednesday, May 15, covers the topic  Innovate to Navigate: developing corporate strategy and foresight to meet global trends, shocks and rapid change. CSIRO's Dr Stefan Hajkowicz will present with Silicon Valley-based senior director for the Strategic Transformations division of Cisco Services Sales, Vlada Majanovic, and Gerhard Vorster, the Chief Strategy Officer for Deloitte Australia and Asia Pacific. Sponsors of the event include Zernike Australia, Australian Institute for Commercialisation, Bayer, CSIRO, ANSTO, Shelston IP and Business Acumen magazine.






OVERLOOKED in the political brouhaha of the changes in Federal Government leadership last week (April, 2013) was the significant passing by the Senate of anti-dumping legislation. Combined with the re-appointment of manufacturing champion, Senator Kim Carr, to the Industry and Innovation portfolio, Australia's beleaguered manufacturers seem to be joined in a late official charge by government and a major union to secure a more reliable future.

CFMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor addresses last .year's union conference


The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) welcomed last week's passing in the Senate of the Anti-Dumping Improvement Bill, but the union warned that more needed to be done. This ties in with long-running protests by Australian manufacturers that they are not competing on a level playing field, and where access to Australia markets is taken advantage of through certain trade agreements.

Holden chief Michael Devereaux, for example, who is now negotiating closely with unions for concessions to help preserve auto manufacturing in Australia, said imported cars faced a 3 percent tariff here while Australian manufacturers faced tariffs of 35 percent in China and 10 percent on pick-up trucks in the US.

The new Anti-Dumping Commission started this week and CFMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor said this meant the Commissioner would have "more tools to protect jobs from dumping" due to the changes introduced by the Bill.

The union was also of the view that the Federal Government's tightening of the 457 Visa for international workers was another move that would assist manufacturers, although that is disputed by several industry organisations.

The union is also stepping up its Let's Spread it Around campaign to influence Australian government policies at all levels to support manufacturing.

This campaign will now include calls for election commitments from all political parties to implement more reforms to the anti-dumping system.

These further reforms are needed in order to capitalise on the significant improvements that have been made to the system in the last few years, according to the CFMEU.

"The gains that have already been made are a major win for workers." CFMEU's Mr O'Connor said.

"It was only in 2010 that the government was actively considering a proposal by the Productivity Commission to further weaken Australia's broken anti-dumping system.

"This suggestion was absurd, particularly considering nothing was being done to stop the proven dumping of cheap toilet paper from Indonesia and China, the end result of which was the closure of two tissue machines, a pulp mill and over 200 direct job losses in the South-East of South Australia.

"In response, the CFMEU mobilised our 110,000 members around the country, united with other unions whose workers were at threat from dumping and worked with manufacturing employers through an anti-dumping roundtable the unions hosted. This resulted in a shift from one of the weakest anti-dumping systems in the world, to workers now having a level of protection which seemed impossible at the time," Mr O'Connor said.

"The fact that all of the anti-dumping improvement bills have had bi-partisan support has been a positive, however sensible amendments which would have helped the Anti-Dumping Commission protect Australian jobs were defeated in the Senate, which is a concern. Policies which would prevent unscrupulous importers from masking the country of origin of their goods and a stronger approach to countries that do not play by the rules are needed from parties aspiring to government.

"The union will continue the fight for a better anti-dumping system as long as dumped imports continue to cost Australian jobs and hurt families and their communities," Mr O'Connor said.

A good example, he said, has been the CFMEU Forestry and Furnishing Products Division (FFPD) which joined with other unions to launch a concerted campaign to force the Federal Government to overturn a decision to allow millions of rolls of toilet paper to be 'dumped' on the Australian market, threatening local manufacturing jobs.

The Anti Dumping Campaign was a joint-unions submission between the CFMEU and the Australian Workers Union, which began in 2010.

CFMEU in conjunction with the AMWU and AWU made a combined union submission on the effects of unfair trade on the manufacturing industries, including the pulp and paper sector, to the Federal Government, following requests for submissions on the Productivity Commission's final recommendations on Australia's Anti Dumping and Countervailing regime.

"This important submission by the unions on behalf of our 350,000 members highlighted the concerns of workers in regard to job security in these industries, by the effects of unfair trade from countries such as Indonesia and China," the CFMEU wrote in a report.

The CFMEU claimed during the campaign that it had been "the target of a coordinated attack by a right wing think tank, the Institute for Public Affairs (IPA)", over campaigns such as Wake up Woolworths and the anti-dumping campaign focusing on tissue products.

In a statement the CFMEU said, "These so-called economic rationalists are trying to convince the Australian public that dumped products such as tissue paper is actually good for the consumer as it apparently lowers the price of the product. This, of course, as workers in the industry know is simply not true. The unfair trade by companies such as Asian Pulp and Paper does not meet the same environmental, social and industrial standards as Australian companies are required to meet and therefore is a direct threat to our members' jobs".

"Nor does our Union apologise for what the IPA calls 'Unions wanting green protectionism to protect high paying jobs'.

"Our members know that all we want is to able to compete with these companies on a level playing field," said the CFMEU in a members report.

"The CFMEU will be pursuing the Government to continue our fight for better protections for workers against these attacks on jobs, wages and conditions for our members."

Importantly, the CFMEU has set its sights on pressurising both sides of Australian politics to develop pro-manufacturing policies.

CFMEU's Mr O'Connor said it would continue to campaign for government policies that "spread the benefits of the resources boom more widely" and "support the creation of more jobs in manufacturing, that give Australian workers priority on new construction jobs and that help mining communities get the amenities and infrastructure they deserve".




The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is calling for an economic reform agenda for retailers - and wants the September Federal Election to be the catalyst.

Russell Zimmerman: wants new Federal initiative for retail industries.


ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman said the retail industry needed decisive movement on tax reform, infrastructure, workplace relations and vocational education. That was the only way retailers could improve productivity and achieve economic performance and growth.

He said business costs for the majority of the retail sector were currently unsustainable. The view of his members was that Australia would need a stable, majority government to bring about the type of swift action needed.

"The question on everyone's lips has been answered, but over the next 227 days the question from retailers will be, ‘what's in it for business?', as many struggle with business costs which are unsustainable and in need of a complete review and overhaul," Mr Zimmerman said.

"There are still uncertainties in the remaining life of this Parliament. With continued support for the government, its legislation and leadership is hanging on an unstable alliance of Greens, independents and disenfranchised former major political party members.

"The ARA holds deep concerns that without the economic certainty a strong majority government would bring there will continue to be a lack of stability given all legislation will continue to be compromised to meet the conflicting ideologies of multiple political interests without a majority Government."

The ARA has a checklist of key reforms it believes are crucial to the viability of Australia's "$243 billion retail industry".

The ARA is calling on the current and alternate Federal Governments to make moves in the right direction urgently.

The ARA wants tax reform, including a reduction of the Low Value Imports Threshold (LVIT) and abolition of what it calls "inefficient taxes on businesses and individuals" to drive economic reform and create more jobs "including a full review of the GST".

The ARA wants the Federal Government to urgently "respond to flexibility, productivity and participation needs of modern workplaces to ensure fairness, productivity and creativity".

There is also the call for enhanced investment in logistics and infrastructure to lift productivity and efficiency in the retail sector.

The ARA is supporting "a return to a budget surplus over time allowing real tax relief" and to "reduce the pressure on business and consumers' pockets".

In particular, the ARA has discerned a skills shortage in the management level of the retail industries and is calling on the Federal Government to "invest in vocational education and training to respond to skills shortages".

Mr Zimmerman said, "The ARA believes a strong, globally competitive economy which provides large and small business with the commercial freedom to take calculated risks, invest and secure productive rewards ultimately benefits business owners and managers, their families, employees and consumers.

"Our economy comprises over 120,000 retail enterprises, most of which are small businesses but some of which are among the largest and most successful corporations in the world.

"As the peak industry body and the direct line between government and industry, the ARA will be advocating for the best outcomes for Australian retailers," Mr Zimmerman said.



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