'Although the NSW economy is strong, business investment is improving and employment growth has been impressive, business conditions are mixed and margins are generally tight amid strong competitive pressures and the escalation in energy costs. It is therefore critical that the Government uses the 2018-19 Budget to deliver an agenda that can pave the way for further advances in the opportunities for the workforce, households and the State's businesses,' Ai Group NSW Head Mark Goodsell said today.
'Particularly we call on the NSW Government to focus on reducing business costs through reductions in taxation and genuine taxation reform to assist current and future NSW businesses create jobs and develop and gain market share domestically and internationally.
'We also encourage further measures aimed at reducing the considerable cost burden imposed on business and the community by inefficient, outdated and anti-competitive regulations. There remains unfinished business in terms of regulatory compliance, which if addressed, could improve business efficiency and productivity and outcomes for consumers.
'A key element to maximising the growth potential of NSW and to lifting opportunities for the workforce is ensuring that industry can meet its current and future skills needs. In addressing this issue, we believe that the Government has an important role in funding major initiatives aimed at lifting school sector literacy and numeracy, as well as developing STEM skills in schools, across the tertiary education sector and in the workplace. As highly skilled trades and technicians are a key component of the future workforce, the Government must also address declining investment in VET, in particular apprenticeships.
'We commend the Government for providing a foundation for future growth and improvements in living standards for the people of NSW by driving the on-going roll-out of high quality infrastructure projects across the State. However, it is important that the Government's procurement policy supports full and fair participation of Australian suppliers with a view to leaving a legacy of globally capable local industries. The Government's infrastructure program must also ensure taxpayers get value for money throughout the life of infrastructure, and not from just the initial cheapest bids,' Mr Goodsell said.
Ai Group's priorities for the 2018-19 NSW Budget include:
Tax: Remove or lower taxes and charges that hinder or discourage businesses from growing and distort or reduce economic activity. This includes substantially improving the competitiveness of the State's payroll tax regime through an on-going commitment to the progressive reduction in the payroll tax rate.
Regulatory compliance and costs: Drive best practice in regulatory design and implementation and reduce the considerable cost burden imposed on business and the community by inefficient, outdated and anti-competitive regulations.
Procurement: Look beyond 'least cost' and consider 'whole-of-life' costs that include through-life servicing and support which are key advantages that local suppliers offer, and which is especially needed in major projects and major technology intensive purchases. Greater responsibility must also be taken in raising the core skills and competencies of public sector personnel responsible for procurement.
Infrastructure: Ensure the roll-out of infrastructure projects are delivered as part of a consistent pipeline of construction activity with infrastructure project delivery strongly focused on local capacity, capability, skills and supply chains.
Energy reliability and affordability: Identify opportunities for capacity building and capital assistance support programs for businesses plus facilitate the development of gas resources while maintaining safety and environmental standards.
Building industry capabilities: Implement programs that assist businesses in taking advantage of ICT enabling technologies and advances in digital and smart manufacturing technologies (building upon programs such as Industry 4.0) to support NSW's future global competitiveness.
Skills: Increase the focus on skills development in literacy, numeracy, digital literacy and STEM, in education and training sectors, including apprenticeships, and support upskilling programs in industry.
'The 2018-19 Budget is an important opportunity to realise these objectives with a view to shaping and securing the State's economic future,' Mr Goodsell said.
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Further comment: Mark Goodsell - 0418 408 871