More than 200 comments were included with responses to the 2013 CEDA/Business Spectator Big Issues survey. The comments section was included this year to allow respondents to elaborate on their selections.
In addition to the major topics explored in the survey, the following were recurring themes within the comments:
Read the media release - 2013 Big Issues survey results: Tax reform needed now, broaden GST base key results
Read opinion piece Stop the reviews, reform now by CEDA Chief Executive, Professor the Hon. Stephen Martin
"Too much has been spent at the Federal level on reviews (e.g. Henry, Gonski) to justify doing the work all over again, just because a new Government is in place. The debates need to happen to determine where the priorities are to build on work already done and then real action needs to be taken to introduce far reaching changes that make a difference. There is no excuse for wasting time undertaking yet more reviews of the same issues and then doing nothing. Australia needs to reform its approach on many fronts but it will not happen if successive Governments merely use their time in power to waste time and money redoing what has already been done. This is not leadership."
"With regards to question 12 (If the Federal Government was to reform the Federation, what should be the priorities?), the most urgent issue with Federation is getting rid of it via the abolition of the states which have been an unnecessary anachronism for at least the last 30 years."
"Tax reform discussion, consultation and recommendations must be undertaken in the first term of government and implemented in the second."
"The services industries make up 75 per cent of the economy. Specific policies need to be developed to increase innovation in this sector as it is becoming increasingly trade exposed."
"Reform of most major sectors is long overdue. Politics determines too many outcomes, not cost-benefit realities. Our politicians don't get it. We are too lazy. More competition is needed!"
"One of the most fundamental issues is Federal funding of public transport infrastructure in cities to reduce transport costs, transport and social inequities, congestion, accidents and adverse health impacts. This is one of our biggest challenges."
"Australia needs to move away from the "dig and ship" business model, which includes LNG, and invest more into value-adding on-shore. That means more manufacturing."
"There needs to be a concerted effort by all levels of government to support the establishment and growth of niche segments in the manufacturing and product development sector. There are a number of areas that could replace the auto industry in the longer term but they won't become established spontaneously. Areas like small cheap satellites, medical devices, animal pharmaceutical (check out NextVet for example) and micro manufacturing such as that being looked at by the City of Melbourne."
"We need to develop a higher skill and value add manufacturing sector and increase our workforce skill base in science, technology and engineering. Education is key but more money is not necessarily the answer."
"Government can't pick winners but needs to create regulatory environment which encourages risk-taking by business. Yes, that means allowing businesses to fail. Infrastructure is also important and if tolls mean a better outcome faster than the cost can be justified. Governments, particularly in SA, need to overcome public sentiment against user charges because there is no other viable funding means at present."
"We need to get rid of inefficient taxes and regulations and resolve outstanding tax issues quickly. Also have less competition between the states on business regulations (e.g. compliance and HSSE [Health, Safety, Security and Environment] type laws) to reduce complexity for national businesses."
"On all areas of policy, consideration needs to be given to clearly defining those things that need to be done nationally, with sufficient flexibility for states and territories to be innovative at a local level. Too much centralisation is as much a risk to good policy as too much decentralisation."
"It is essential to have a national debate about the models for delivery of public services. We can't afford all we desire so efficiency and effectiveness are very important. There are different models available but there is no discussion in the public arena about them. By reducing costs without reducing quality of services, by using alternative models, we will free up funds for much needed but unfounded infrastructure."
"Australia is over-governed, over-regulated and over-dependent on supply-side economics with too little attention to demand-side resourcing and alignment. The GST needs to be broadened to capture the growth revenues of tomorrow's economy, viz, health, vocational training, and aged care."
"Nothing about housing? Insane! Australia needs more affordable housing, to reduce homelessness, mortgage stress and give retirees somewhere to down size too. Affordable housing would also encourage construction and prop up the fading mining boom. I can't believe it wasn't a choice on the list."
"Australian economic policy makers see health and community services as mainly imposts on the public purse. However these sectors not only need to more effectively contribute to population health and wellbeing we need to tap into the R&D they generate, their innovative practices and consider whether they are generators of greater export income through traded services. Further, the translation of R&D into new goods and services in all industries are not the sole preserve of universities as the technician (VET) occupations have been the key conduit between university/institutional researchers and industry in the past. Thus the role of VET should be acknowledged and valued. Regardless of the foregoing the fundamental issues for any marked improvements in productivity and innovative practice is improving the culture of organisations and the effective engagement of employees. This means Australian organisations (private, public and non-profit) must seriously look at the nature and quality of leadership and management - ethical, inclusive practices where management recognises it does not have all the new ideas or solutions and values others contributions. Revisiting key aspects in the Karpin Report would be relevant here. Attitudes to the effective engagement and ongoing development of experienced mature aged staff must also improve given the adverse impact early retirement and underutilisation of this group has on national productivity. The baby boomers are one of Australia's most highly skilled and educated cohorts with much value to continue adding to the economy. Australia needs to implement strategies to keep them engaged (full-time or part-time) and tap into their experience and wisdom - not see them as being past their use-by date."
"Unless the Government starts to take climate change seriously, we won't have an economy to worry about."
"Education: The country is not capitalising on its multi-cultural asset - I would advocate a compulsory second language capability for all HSC level student; Skills: The dynamic changes of the economy requires new skills for the existing workforce - Australia should look at a workplace-TAFE-industry cluster collaboration to keep our skills up-to-date, so that the workforce is continuously learning; Tax: The more taxed they are, the less business will survive. The focus should be on more incentive to businesses (by lowering taxes) rather than providing grants. Grant money does not get us anywhere; Federation: The country is already small; increasing state competition makes it even smaller. The Federal Government should have a leadership role to bring the States into the one country and pursue business opportunities under one Australia, particularly in services (financial, education) and tourism; Manufacturing: The best a state can do is to provide (or subsidise) part of the infrastructure, including land use (for factories) and logistics, but not increasing grants."