The power of a government employee

I suggested in a recent post that many highly paid government employees should perhaps spend more time in the real world to better understand how the policy they shape and hand down as law impacts on businesses.

I was specifically referring to the body currently known as Fair Work Australia (FWA), and the announcement of a 2.9% hourly rate increase and a one cent per kilometre increase in travel allowances at a time when interest rates, our cost of living, and the price of cars, is falling.

Early last week I spoke with Kate Legge, a respected journalist at The Australian, on the future of retail in Australia. We discussed global trends, the shift to convenience and better pricing. We also revisited the report on the retail industry from the Productivity Commission last year

Later in the week, I attended a Retail Futures Forum, hosted in the Mural Hall in Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne. I was in the company of 500 journalists, state and city government employees, bankers, retailers and suppliers who were there to hear Bernie Brookes, CEO Myer, Ian McLeod CEO Coles, Sue Morphet CEO Pac Brands and Paul Greenberg, founder of Deals Direct, talk about the future of retailing.

The issues of the financial impact from FWA’s latest ruling and the removal of various workplace agreements were raised. These changes were mandated under law, so neither the employer nor employees have any choice but to live by them in their stores, even if it’s bad for any party. Several recommendations made by the Productivity Commission report on retail were also raised by Bernie Brookes.

It may come across as if I have an issue with highly paid government employees. The reality is quite the opposite. There are some very capable government employees with genuine experience within both the public service and the business sector. They have the correct level of authority balanced with a sense of responsibility to shape great policy. They make the lives of the majority of people in our society better.

Gary Banks AO is the chairman of the Productivity Commission. He is highly paid government employee with no powers whatsoever. He can only recommend actions to all levels of government. However, he and his team are well balanced, very astute, and often visionary strategists with insights and solutions that, if applied, would assist Australia to be a truly world class economy.

Gary has been in the role for many years so is not a “here today, gone tomorrow” political appointee. Over that time he has invited, cajoled, and chaperoned a wide range of equally bright government employees and business leaders to assist him in addressing the issues we face in ensuring that Australia remains competitive today and into the future.

Sadly, as he has no real powers, all the key recommendations of the Productivity Commission Review on the Retail Sector published a year ago are still lying in files in all three levels of government: federal in Canberra; state and territory in their capital cities; and local government in our towns and cities.

Recommendations that would free up land for new stores; improve shopping hours; allow youngsters and oldsters, mums and backpackers who want to work flexible hours to work hours that suit them and the shopper; and reduce prices for imported products. All these things create more jobs, better shopping experiences and improve our country’s tax base.

Based upon those potential outcomes alone, Gary Banks is at least one government employee who should be given more powers.

As CROSSMARK CEO, Kevin Moore looks at the world of retailing from grocery to pharmacy, bottle shops to car dealers, corner store to department stores. In this insightful blog, Kevin covers retail news, ideas, companies and emerging opportunities in Australia and across the world. His international career in sales and marketing has seen him responsible for businesses in over 40 countries, which has earned him grey hair and a wealth of expertise in international retailers and brands.

CROSSMARK Asia Pacific is Australasia’s largest provider of retail marketing services, consulting to and servicing some of Australasia’s biggest retailers and manufacturers.


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