Debate reveals lack of vision for business

So that was the great debate! What a disappointment for business owners. In fact unless both parties are keeping their powder dry and intend to make some big announcements within the next month, it appears business is off the agenda this election.

Prime Minister John Howard once again staked his claim as a believer in the long-term resources boom. Meanwhile prime minister hopeful Kevin Rudd backed education, climate change and broadband.

But what is missing is the vision for entrepreneurial Australians in an increasingly complicated and globalised world.

Former prime minister Paul Keating developed a vision for business in his reign (yes, pity about the 17% interest rates).

Even John Howard in early 2000 came out with big innovation initiatives, and could talk of the role that business would play in the future.

But this time around there is no grand vision on innovation, commercialisation, research and development and the development of intellectual property. There is no heated discussion about how we turn Australia away from being dominated by huge duopolies, sometimes colluding and bullying small business, to assisting entrepreneurial Australians to start and build their own businesses.

There is no vision for what Australia will become when the resources boom tails off. And there needs to be, given Australia’s huge reliance on corporate taxes (the second highest in the world, according to the OECD report released last week).

And where is the talk of solutions to climate change coming from investment in research?

It is not enough for Howard to talk of his intention to invest in clean technologies if re-elected. Last night he announced that any revenue from the auction of permits under an emissions trading scheme would be directed not only into funds to develop new clean energy technologies but also to compensate low income households.

Australia has a record in researching clean technologies, but they struggle and often end up licensed to overseas countries. The last thing Howard should be doing is diverting funding from investments into new technologies that might offer some solutions to climate change.

Meanwhile it is also not enough for Rudd to wave around a lap top. What’s the step after we all get broadband? Because surely that too is a given.

While business owners will welcome the cuts in personal taxes and the emphasis on stable economic management, surely these are a given. What business owners want is a vision for an entrepreneurial future.


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