It’s usual to wish friends and family a prosperous New Year. So what are the prospects for prosperity as we put an eventful year behind us and look forward to the next?
Share markets at home and abroad are booming and global growth is on the up. Unemployment is low and mining and agriculture are helping Australia ride high in the saddle as commodity prices shine.
But despite improving prospects, rising debt clouds the picture. Household debt is higher than it was before the GFC and government, finding it difficult to get spending under tighter control, struggles to bring the budget back to surplus.
You can’t read a paper, listen to the news or watch a screen without being told that wages growth is slow. Yes, wages are growing more slowly than they were in the boom years – but they are still growing. And to sustain and create jobs, firms must be able to afford to put on new staff and offer longer hours for those who want them.
Small businesses, working hard to keep their heads above water, know the truth of this. But they don’t have the bargaining power to negotiate trade-offs in wages and conditions with unions and they don’t have the market power to pass on increased costs to customers.
Like bigger businesses, they face disruption from online and overseas competition that threatens the bottom line. And they have to comply with an uncompetitive tax system and increasing regulation from governments.
And like bigger businesses, small businesses have been mugged by sharp rises in power prices.
Just because we’ve made it halfway through summer without blackouts isn’t cause to declare victory in the energy wars. Whether or not the power comes on when we flick the switch shouldn’t even be a subject for discussion in a country as well-developed, and as well-endowed with energy resources, as Australia. And we are paying some of the highest prices for power in the world.
These are just some of the issues the Australian Chamber will tackle this year. With our members’ help, we’ll work hard to influence political leaders and the community to support change that will help business deliver the increasing prosperity that Australians aspire to.
James Pearson | CEO
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