Big business calls for more unity

AUSTRALIA’S peak big business lobby has called for a return to the co-operative spirit on economic reform that marked the ”Accord” days of the Hawke government.

Amid the highly fractured political debate, Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd said on Thursday night: ”We want to reach out to the whole community with an inclusive, positive vision for the future”.

Addressing the BCA dinner, he said: ”My plea to you tonight … is that whether you are from business or government or opposition, the union movement or the community sector, that you don’t see other people here, or the groups they represent, as combatants.”

He said in the days of the Accord – between the Labor government and the union movement – different sectors were able to agree on a common purpose and plan to foster productivity, competitiveness and growth. Mr Hawke had encouraged the formation of the BCA to deal with matters after his 1983 economic summit.

”There is no reason we cannot do this again … It’s the only way for Australia to be the truly exceptional country we have the opportunity to be. We want Australia to see that influential people … share a vision and that we can work together to achieve it” – recognising that differences on the detail were healthy.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the dinner Labor had ”a national plan for a moment of strength” – this included policies on the table and ambitious goals for 2025. The government’s vision was ”winning in the Asian century”.

To the ”small government advocates in the room” she said, ”well, you got it”, pointing to Labor’s cuts to subsidies, means testing benefits, and savings. She promised ”further structural savings” to deliver schools reform and the disability insurance scheme, and said that ”now we’re returning to surplus”.

With Labor pushing gender politics, Ms Gillard highlighted policies benefiting women, including tripling the tax-free threshold, delivering paid maternity leave, and extending gender equality. She added pointedly: ”I’m looking forward to seeing that flow from the shop floor up to the leadership level – where I’m sure that in a couple of years’ time I won’t still find myself meeting with boards where the only other woman is serving food.”

Addressing a small business forum, opposition leader Tony Abbott said the Coalition would restore the rate of growth in the numbers of small businesses.

Under the Howard government, ”on average there were 36,000 more small businesses at the end of every year. Under the current government, there are just 15,000 more small businesses at the end of every year, and they are employing fewer people”.

Small business was ”the engine room of our economy”, and there was no reason why there could not be an annual rate of growth in its number of 1.5 per cent.

This would mean Australia would be adding 30,000 new small businesses a year – double the rate under this government. The focus would be on growing the number of small businesses that employed. ”I want to see once again small businesses providing more than half the jobs in the private sector,” he said.

Treasurer Wayne Swan will on Friday say President Barack Obama has ”a clear mandate to resolve the fiscal cliff in a way which protects society’s most vulnerable. A mandate to ensure that the wealthiest Americans … pay their fair share”.

Speaking in Melbourne, he will again attack the ”hard-line views of the extreme right” in the US. He will say the incoming Chinese leadership’s approach to reform will define the path of the Chinese economy over at least the next decade. ”And many powerful vested interests in China have a stake in the status quo.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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