The Australian Industry Group, a peak industry association representing the interests of more than 60,000 businesses, has strongly endorsed the federal government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda.
AiGroup Chief Executive Innes Willox said the Agenda contains “a sensible set of measures designed to lift productivity, encourage innovation and reduce red tape.”
“The Agenda addresses the need for rebalancing in our economy across industries to build an industrial base to ensure strength and resilience for the future, Mr Willox said.
With the mining-investment boom winding down and commodity prices in retreat, the proposed new measures contained in the Agenda are timely.
“New sources of growth from other sectors, including manufacturing and services, need to resume their contributions to economic development and the Competitiveness Agenda will help in that regard, said Mr Willox.
“We are especially pleased with the range of measures aimed at stimulating the investment in new ideas and processes that are so fundamental to innovation-led improvements in productivity and competitiveness.
“The proposals to build greater collaboration between Australia’s research organisations and the business community are particularly welcome as are the plans to lift the commercialisation of Australian research.”
AiGroup has also welcomed the government’s commitment to establish five Industry Growth Centres.
“The Government has recognised the need for a practical focus on commercialisation of research, as well as the need for Industry Growth Centres to build on the success of the initiatives of the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme, Mr Willox said.
“It is vital that these centres are industry-driven, rather than research-driven and have a clear rationale and purpose. There should be a focus on the outcomes of the network, rather than creation of a network per se. This could be enhanced with a program designed to encourage the participation of small businesses and start-ups, and the creation of ‘linking organisations’ to facilitate the creation of partnerships between research organisations and industry.”
And proposed changes to the Employee Share Scheme for start-up companies have the potential to improve the landscape for start-ups to attract talented employees and finance.
“We have some concerns that the eligibility criteria may be too tight and we will need to consult with member businesses on the design of the program, Mr Willox said.
“Ai Group is also pleased with the decision to allow Austrade to redefine the scope of eligible investments in the Government’s Significant Investor Visa program.”
“On international product standards, Ai Group welcomes the Government’s proposal to adopt the principle that if a system, service or product has been approved under a trusted international standard or risk assessment, then Commonwealth regulators should not impose additional requirements.”
Mr Willox said the Government’s streamlining of 457 labour migration visas would help remove the compliance burdens from businesses with a positive track record in using the program.
At the same time, the proposed amendments would expose the very few who misuse the scheme.
And reform to the VET system would enable training to be industry-led, which would ensure that businesses can find or train employees in skills that will be relevant. However, the AiGroup expressed its concern over the narrow range of industries the Government has targeted for growth in training.
“The announcement of the pilot program to provide 7,500 scholarships to small businesses in regional areas who employ and train 18-24 years is a sound addition to the established apprenticeship path, said Mr Willox.
“Ai Group also believes that this approach will re-engage workers in areas of high unemployment and boost labour participation.
“Ai Group members consistently tell us that Australian industry and governments need a concerted focus on reducing labour costs, regulatory costs and energy costs, which all erode our international competitiveness. We also need to reduce Australia’s high corporate tax burden. We look forward to working on behalf of our members with the Government on the upcoming reviews covering these areas.”
Mr Willox said Australia must find multiple sources of growth, rather than relying so heavily on resource and energy commodities.
“A broader range of businesses need to be encouraged to step up investment, employment and productivity if we are to lift the quantity and quality of jobs and to improve incomes and living standards across the community. This rebalancing is important not only for the strength of the economy but also to improve its resilience.”