Election 2007 – the missing issues

We’re now just three days away from the election and the political parties have put all of their major policy promises on the table. But with the media spotlight on issues such as climate change and industrial relations, what are the business issues for small and medium businesses that have been left out of the debate?

SmartCompany asked business and advocacy groups across Australia what they see as the missing issues of election 2007.

NSW Business Chamber

On of Australia’s largest business groups, the NSW Business Chamber, is calling for an end to blame game between state and federal governments.

“Blame shifting has become the third certainty of Australian political life along with death and taxes,” NSW Business Chamber spokesman Paul Ritchie says. “The performance and inter-relationship of the federal and state governments is a major issue, and one that hasn’t received a lot of focus during the campaign.”

The NSW Business Chamber has released a 10-point plan for reform of federal/state relations including:

  • A formal referral of state powers on industrial relations to the federal government.
  • Nationally consistent OH&S laws.
  • Clear lines of responsibility for vocational education and training and school standards.
  • A constitutional convention to sort out the division of responsibility, revenue raising and expenditure between state and federal governments.

Australian Information Industry Association

Two weeks ago the AIIA, Australia’s information and communication technology industry’s representative body, described election 2007 as an “ICT policy-free zone”.

With election day now right around the corner, AIIA chief executive Sheryle Moon says not much has changed.

“We’ve had things like the education revolution announcement and discussion on broadband, but there has been no discussion of ICT policies, nothing about how to grow the local industry or support local entrepreneurs – in short, no big picture vision of how the ICT service economy works in Australia and where it is going,” Moon says.

In particular, Moon says, Australian ICT businesses would like to see more of a focus from both parties on how government can foster innovation.

“Countries around the world have seen the importance of innovation. That conversation is really important – we need policy settings to create science and technology led innovation, especially in the services sector, to grow the economy.”

Real Estate Institute of Australia

Housing affordability may have been the barbecue-stopper of the election campaign, but the Real Estate Institute of Australia believes both political parties have squandered the opportunity to properly address the issue.

“Both parties needed to go further – we’ve argued for some time that there should be a process whereby first home-buyers can have access to voluntary contributions to super, but we haven’t seen that,” REIA president Noel Dyett says.

Dyett also believes the function of housing affordability policy – and therefore its importance – has been misunderstood by the political parties.

“We would like a government to proclaim home ownership as the forth pillar of policy for retirement policy along with the age pension, superannuation and voluntary savings. We think home ownership in itself is an essential for retirement planning, because it provides an asset and a roof over your head,” Dyett says.

Taxpayers Australia

Taxpayers Australia wants comprehensive tax reform – not the very expensive, politically targeted spending that has been sprayed around in the election campaign to date.

Taxpayers Australia chief executive Tony Greco says both parties have been spending like drunken sailors.

“They’ve done what will win support, not what’s necessary – and that’s a low tax system that gives people a choice about how to spend their money, rather than taking from them and then giving it back via the government,” Greco says.

The business community also has reason to be unhappy with the absence of any talk about lowering the corporate tax rate, Greco says.

“Businesses are primarily responsible for the healthy revenue inflows, but they haven’t been the beneficiaries of that, so they can quiet rightly argue that we’re the ones contributing, but we haven’t seen any direct benefits.”


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