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Edition 373 – The Nation’s Finances

Last night, the Federal Treasurer, Dr Jim Chalmers, handed down the Albanese Government’s second budget. Some of what was announced was already known, it having been rolled out as Government policy over recent months.

My biggest lament is that this is the second opportunity for this Government to put its stamp on a reform agenda and once again, it has squibbed its responsibilities to the future of the nation. With three year parliamentary terms, we’ve just entered the second year of this government’s life and their inability to at least countenance the reform conversation is disappointing.

From the early 80’s through to the mid 2000’s, this country was on a phenomenal path of economic reform. The vision of Hawke, Keating, Howard and Costello gave us a universal health care system; the modern superannuation system; gun law reform; a significant reform to the tax system and the (almost) repayment of Federal Government debt back in 2007.

Those that know me know I’ve had a long established interest in politics and economics. It’s been a passion of mine, forever, right from the days of being the nerdy school kid who could rattle off the entire cabinet of respective governments with ease whilst my schoolmates talked football or cricket.

Here’s some of my thoughts as to what I believe should be on the Government’s agenda:

  1. Waterfront reform is vital to the future of Australia. Goods waiting weeks to enter or exit the country slows everything down, yet no Government, of either colour, wants to take on the unions in this critical part of infrastructure. That needs to change.
  2. Energy costs are rising faster than what some businesses can absorb. Whilst the move to a greener energy market is to be applauded, it appears to be ideologically driven to the point of putting some businesses under significant pressure. I know of one small food producer whose energy costs have risen $20 000 per month over the past 12 months.
  3. The education system needs to place greater value on the pursuit of a trades-based occupation. We’re a fast growing country and we need trades skills to build infrastructure. Yet, the school system still puts too much emphasis on pursuing a university education. We need more plumbers and electricians – not Arts graduates!
  4. The Stage 3 Income Tax Cuts, which I’ve never agreed with, should be either scrapped or deferred until after the next election. With the mammoth debt mountain incurred over the past 15 years (exacerbated by the COVID crisis), and forecasted large deficits over the next 4 years, I’m personally prepared to keep paying more tax to try and bring it down.
  5. Unfair dismissal laws for small business need to be reviewed in order to allow employers to make faster decisions around the retention of poorly performing staff. I’ve seen small businesses persevere with the whole, drawn out process of performance counselling of an individual, all whilst having to deal with the fallout of the impact of that individual’s ongoing poor performance on their colleagues.
  6. We need to rebuild the manufacturing sector in this country in order to skill up the economy and get inventive about the solutions required to solve the problems of tomorrow. As a country, we’re fortunate to have a resources sector that contributes hugely to government coffers and individual livelihoods. However, it never ceases to amaze me that we dig stuff out of the ground, send it overseas, then bring it back with all the value-add having taken place elsewhere.

I’m still waiting for the big picture vision of the future from this Government, or indeed any Government over the past 15 years. In my opinion, in all that time, I would count only one of the six Prime Ministers we’ve had as being truly visionary. It’s just disappointing that individual was hamstrung by the whole process of politics and in the end, was brought down by a bunch of colleagues that were too focussed on ideology, not the future.

This Week’s Tip

It’s difficult for business to plan for the future
when the nation doesn’t yet know what direction we’re heading in.