Speech | Canberra Business Chamber Diplomatic Business Connections Gala Dinner: Competitiveness and our agenda | 30 August 2018

31 Aug 2018 |

Address by Australian Chamber CEO, James Pearson




Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman, and especially members of the Canberra Business Chamber who are here tonight to promote their businesses and build networks of mutual advantage.



It is a great pleasure to be here today to support the Diplomatic Business Connections initiative of the Canberra Business Chamber.

President Glenn Keys, CEO Robyn Hendry, and members of the Board of the Canberra Business Chamber, I want to congratulate you and your team for initiating these important events.

The Canberra Business Community, represented with such vigour by the Canberra Business Chamber, has a long standing and strong working relationship with the diplomatic community.

The opportunity on nights like these to strengthen these connections is important.

The Australian Chamber is the largest and most representative business organisation in Australia, comprised over 80 State and Territory Chambers of Commerce and Industry and national and state Industry Associations.

We represent over 300,000 business of every size, in all sectors of the economy and in every corner of the country.


We support Free Trade

The businesswomen and men represented by the Australian Chamber are long standing supporters of free trade and investment.

We embrace comparative advantage and welcome international competition because it challenges us to be the best we can.

Our enterprises, the people who work for us and the communities we serve benefit from the greater choice and lower costs that come from an open economy; and from the opportunities it creates at home and abroad.


Our reputation is strong…

Australia’s role as a trade and investment partner to some of the world’s largest economies has allowed us to create opportunities for our people:

Our embrace of, and dependency on, rules based multilateral trade and investment agreements served our open economy well.

In recent years, we have adapted, out of pragmatic necessity, to negotiate regional and bilateral agreements to help fuel our economic growth.

Through it all, free trade and investment has enjoyed bipartisan support, from the two political groupings that form governments in Australia, the Coalition and the Labor Party.

And so we are still regarded as an attractive place of investment with effective institutions and regulators.

And that same bipartisan support has extended to a migration program which has provided us a platform to engage confidently a changing world; in commerce, culture and thought; and nurture a society whose people embrace their diversity as a great strength.

And so we are still regarded as an attractive destination for the best and brightest people in the world.

Immigration is indeed the sincerest form of flattery.


…but we risk falling behind.

But despite our advantages, Australia risks falling behind.

My three children are adults in their mid and late twenties. Since they learned to read and write they, and the other members of their generation of Australians, have known nothing other than economic growth. Year after year, for a quarter of a century.

But like the proverbial frog in water that is brought slowly to the boil that seems to have lulled some of us into a complacency. A belief that the water in which we swim will always be warm; and all that is required of us is to paddle gently.

In some extreme cases, on both the left and the right of politics, some even suggest we swim backwards.

The cold facts are these:

  • In recent years we have fallen out of the top 10 of the world’s most competitive economies. Now we perch just inside the top 20.
  • Globalisation coupled with the rise of technology has dramatically transformed the way all of us ‘do business’.
  • Other nations are adapting their policy settings to better compete in the global market. If Australia doesn’t do the same we will get left behind.


We want to be the best

Australian business doesn’t want to settle for second or third best. Let alone 19th best, which is our current place in the competitive country pack.

The Organisation I lead wants Australia to be the best country in the world in which to do business.

So Australians have the jobs, living standards and opportunities to which they aspire.

So we can attract the very best that investors and traders and visitors and migrants from other countries can offer. For mutual benefit.


Our policy agenda

This is why we work so hard to promote policies to improve our competitiveness, to ensure Australia can prosper in a world where the competition is fiercer and the rules are under greater challenge than they have been for years.

This includes training more Australians while maintaining a strong and well-planned skilled migration program, to equip our businesses and the people whom they depend on, with the skills and tools to thrive.

This means putting in place a competitive company tax rate for all business, to encourage and attract new investment and to give our businesses the best opportunity to compete.

This means helping our Industries grow, by putting in place a simpler workplace relations system and better transport and communications infrastructure to connect our growing regional centres and capital cities.

It means cutting energy costs for our businesses, big and small; while ensuring reliability of power and gas supply and meeting our emissions reduction targets

And it means removing barriers to trade and reducing red tape, which benefits local business and makes it easier for International businesses to operate in Australia.

  • You see, every year we survey Australian businesses of all shapes and sizes. To deepen our understanding of the key issues and challenges facing international traders.
  • For the fourth year in a row Australian businesses marked international competitiveness as the top concern.
  • Large and medium sized businesses regard red tape as an important priority, while, not surprisingly, it is the top concern for small business owners.


The Australian Chamber’s role in trade and diplomacy

The Australian Chamber, like our member and partner the Canberra Business Chamber, does our most public work here at home.

Less well known is that we fly the flag for Australian business in trade negotiations; at the UN, at the G20 and the OECD.

And members such as the Canberra Business Chamber work with local and international businesses and the diplomatic community to improve the business connections between all of our countries.  They host trade delegations; and help us to influence trade policy.

We are proud of the work the Canberra Business Chamber and our network of members do to improve the business connections between our countries; and the opportunities they, and you as representatives and advocates for fair trade, create. It will help make Australia the best place in the world to do business. For all of us to benefit.

James Pearson

Chief Executive Officer

P  |  02 6270 8000

E  |  [email protected]

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