Senate Select Committee on the Future of Work and Workers
Alana Matheson, Deputy Director | Workplace Relations
21 February 2018 appearing with Jenny Lambert
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We thank the Committee for the opportunity to address important issues raised by the future of work in Australia.
The private sector creates more than 4 out of 5 jobs. The one absolute certainty we can bank on for the future is that these work opportunities will not exist without viable and sustainable businesses.
The ongoing prosperity and success of our community depends on our capacity to deliver a clear and powerful value proposition for investing and doing business in Australia.
Meaningful, productive dialogue on the future of work cannot be politicised, nor can it be divisive. We have an opportunity in this discussion to do much better for the community and emerging generations by engaging with genuinely relevant questions for our future.
We should attempt to develop a shared understanding about what is actually going on in the global economy and global labour market and what Australia needs to do to secure our share of future business and jobs.
Australia faces intensifying global competition particularly from the rapidly developing economies in Asia.
Competitive concerns are not just confined to cheaper labour. These rapidly developing nations are increasingly competing in other areas.
They are improving digital infrastructure and can already access online opportunities free of geographical limitations, and they are rapidly increasing skills and education in areas of critical global demand.
Other nations throughout the world are responding to change and working to ensure they are competitive and securing jobs for their people, including by repositioning their tax policies to better encourage international investment and grow their economy. We will need to adapt and compete more effectively in our own right if we want to maintain our high living standards.
In the 1980s, the then Treasurer famously warned that a failure to adjust would see Australian end-up being a “third-rate economy, a banana republic”. Times and language have changed, but turning our minds to the future of work creates a similar opportunity to fundamentally think about how to adjust and better position Australia for the future.
We need to engage with policies that will help us secure competitive advantage, and bring future opportunities to this country.
While our land may abound in nature’s gifts, our future will increasingly rely on smart, adaptable people in our increasingly service oriented economy.
We need to ensure businesses can employ people with the skills and capabilities they need to compete and succeed.
Our economy and the needs and expectations of our workforce are evolving. Most Australians don’t want to work full-time for 40 years on a production line or in an office that looks like a scene out of Mad Men.
We cannot afford to fall into the trap of assuming any government should attempt to freeze work in time like a wax works exhibit – this is a sure path to a future with fewer jobs and falling living standards.
This is not the time to add further layers of regulation to an already complex and overlapping workplace relations system grounded in labour market assumptions tracing back to the 19th century.
We cannot afford to have businesses so put off by our regulation that it’s more attractive to take their business and employment opportunities elsewhere and we don’t want to see all of the good Australian ideas being commercialised abroad.
Instead, let’s show the world that our Governments in Australia have a positive attitude toward doing business by delivering a competitive policy environment that encourages risk taking, investment and employment and which doesn’t create apprehension regarding sudden, unannounced or untested shifts in regulation.
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