Speech | Annual Dinner Address | President Jeremy Johnson

12 Dec 2018 |

Acknowledgements

Distinguished guests, on behalf of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australia’s largest and most representative business network I welcome you to the Australian Chamber’s annual dinner.

Remarks

When the Australian Chamber and its members speak, we speak on behalf of more than 300,000 businesses, large and small who employ millions of people across all sectors of the economy, right across the country.

As the largest voice for small business, we speak for all the wealth creators, risk takers and job makers who share our vision – to make Australia the best place in the world to do business, so that Australians have the jobs, living standards and opportunities to which they aspire.

Today we’ve been blessed with rain. But across much of the eastern seaboard, the opposite has been true and many communities have been gripped by drought.

Attention and compassion has rightly focussed on the plight of farmers. But let us not forget that the business ecosystems of many parts of regional Australia have been severely disrupted by impact of drought.

When a farm fails a small business in the local town is more likely to fail too, and so the impact of adversity ripples through the local economy.

I am proud that our members in states and territories affected by drought have stepped up to provide practical assistance to the businesspeople, the lifeblood of small towns across the country, who are sharing the pain of the drought.

And practical support through sound policy is what the business community needs from government. We applaud the vigour of the advocacy by Mr Morrison and his team for better outcomes for small, medium and family business in particular.

After a strong lobbying effort, we were delighted at the Government’s decision to accelerate the tax cuts for small, medium and family businesses and welcomed the extension of the instant asset write down for small business, for another year.

Do not underestimate for a moment the significance of driving through a meaningful tax cut for businesses with a turnover for up to $50 million per year.

In my home town of Ballarat, I walk around the local lake. The other day I found myself in the company of an old friend, a local businessman, who has grown a small business into a thriving medium sized business with operations across the state providing many jobs.

He told me that the tax cuts would deliver $300,000 more per year of the money generated by his business, money that his firm has made, available to him to invest, to grow, to further succeed.

At a time when Australian businesses are under pressure as never before from competition from overseas and rising costs – reducing tax on business helps business to stay in the game.

Businesses of all sizes across the country are struggling to keep up with the costs of doing business.

Increased energy costs are biting business hard.

We welcomed the Government’s endorsement of some of the recommendations proposed by the ACCC to bring energy costs down.

Action is needed if we want to keep costs down over the longer term. We don’t want our businesses to close their doors, lay off staff, or relocate to other countries where energy doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Affordable and reliable energy must be at the heart of energy policy in Australia.

We support a long term, bipartisan, nationally agreed policy solution, to provide the policy certainty needed to encourage investment, in order to meet Australia’s emission reduction commitments. We believe the NEG plus the ACCC recommendations – “NEG plus” – offers that path.

The skills shortage in our workforce is widening, numbers of apprentices and trainees are falling far short of what we need and what the community expects. Investment in vocational education and training is critical for the employment prospects for millions of Australians and the prospects for success of hundreds of thousands of businesses.

As our population reached the 25 million mark this year, migrants are being blamed for increasing congestion in our cities. That’s led to calls to cut back immigration, even while employers in our capital cities still have job vacant signs on their doors and while regional Australia remains desperate to bring in skilled people.

Migrants don’t take jobs, they create jobs – they fill the jobs, particularly in our rural and regional communities, that Australian are unable or unwilling to do.

Together with effective investment in educating and training Australian’s for the jobs of today and tomorrow, a well-managed and strong migration program is essential to meet the many skills demands of Australia’s modern and diverse economy.

Despite increasing employment, subdued wages growth and high costs of living are fuelling the big unions’ radical agenda to ‘change the rules.’ The push by big unions for a more rigid labour market is the last thing Australia needs to thrive in a fiercely competitive and volatile market.

What we do need is to ensure our workplace relations system better supports competitiveness, delivers flexibility for both employers and employees, and is far simpler.

And we need to make it easier for businesses to hire and manage people.

All of these challenges require strong, stable leadership from both politicians and the business community.

Introduction to the Prime Minister

We are honoured tonight to welcome our nation’s leader, the Prime Minister, the Honourable Scott Morrison MP.

Scott Morrison has established a reputation as a passionate advocate for his local community as well as the person to whom some of the most difficult problems are given to be solved.

As Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, he worked to secure our boarders.

As Social Services Minister, he reduced abuse of the welfare system and put Australia’s social safety net on a more sustainable footing.

In his most recent role as Treasurer, he reduced the deficit, maintained Australia’s AAA credit rating, secured record jobs growth and helped to cut corporate and personal income taxes.

I hope you will forgive me, Prime Minister, if I describe your current responsibilities as your most challenging assignment yet. It is one in which you are eminently qualified to succeed.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the Prime Minister of Australia – the Honourable Scott Morrison MP.

 

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