Business groups have praised the Federal Government for the goals outlined in the Australia in the Asian Century white paper, including a vision to transform Australia’s innovation system.
The government, which released the white paper today, has set itself the goal of breaking into the world’s top 10 in GDP per person by 2025, as it seeks to take advantage of the Asian Century.
In order to achieve this goal, Australia’s real income per person would have to rise to around $73,000 by 2025, from $62,000 in 2011.
“The objectives in the white paper provide a roadmap for Australia to achieve this ambitious productivity goal,” Treasurer Wayne Swan said in a statement.
“An important part of this will be lifting our productivity performance at home, irrespective of exactly how the Asian Century evolves.”
In an effort to boost productivity, the government has unveiled a five-pillar productivity platform consisting of skills and education, innovation, infrastructure, tax, and regulation.
As part of its investment in skills and education, the government said it will deliver $5.3 billion in additional funding for universities between 2012 and 2015.
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Meanwhile, Asia-literacy will become a core requirement in new education reforms.
With regard to innovation, the government said its vision is to transform Australia’s innovation system into one of the world’s top 10.
This will require support for “dynamism in business with a creative problem-solving culture”.
“Our innovation system must also boost our evolving areas of strength to attract top researchers, companies and global partnerships,” the government said.
The government will “continue to explore ways to boost productivity through business tax reform”, and strive to make Australia one of the world’s most efficiently regulated countries.
The Council of Small Business of Australia welcomed the release of the white paper, which “provides the genesis of a blueprint for our growing interaction with our closest neighbours”.
“If we are to provide food and other commodities to this market, we must free up competition here at home first,” COSBOA executive director Peter Strong said.
“We… look forward to contributing to the debate, and assisting in the undoubted development of new websites and apps that will be needed to convert the white paper into reality.”
Innes Willox, chief executive of Australian Industry Group, said the white paper addresses two critical ingredients of productivity – education and training, and innovation.
“We look forward to the foreshadowed Industry and Innovation Statement, and the steps it proposes to address the very low levels of collaboration between business and the research sector,” Willox said.
However, Willox expressed disappointment over the absence of workplace relations reform in the white paper.
“More flexible workplace relations are critical to the realisation of productivity gains from other sources including education and training, and innovation,” he said.
CPA Australia had more criticism of the white paper, saying while it is an “important first step” for Australia’s role in the Asian Century, too many questions have been left unanswered.
“The paper is essentially a compendium of much discussed and, indeed, much needed measures,” said chief executive Alex Malley.
“The important questions in our view now are, where is the money coming from? And what are the timelines?”
“Too often we have seen good ideas articulated in such papers, left to gather dust, or adopted in half-hearted fashion. This time, however, there is too much at stake… Time is of the essence.”