Engaging the new government

  • Date:01 Oct 2013
  • Type:Company Director Magazine
John H C Colvin explains how Company Directors plans to work with the new government on reforms of importance to directors and improving the business environment.

The change of government in Canberra should herald a change for the better on many policy issues of vital interest to Australia’s directors.

As Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on election night, Australia is “under new management” and again “open for business”. As welcome as those messages are, it is important that this new management grasps the opportunity for real change, taking advantage of its strong electoral mandate to create a new and more productive economic environment, rather than slipping into a politically cautious “business as usual” approach.   

To meet the challenges ahead, strong leadership, more competent administration and a prudent approach to managing the economy will be required. However, it will also demand a willingness to make some tough decisions and to pursue a range of reforms that are vitally needed.

It is not just about new and better policies. The change in the political landscape also provides the opportunity for a fresh approach to how government conducts its relationship with business.

We at the Australian Institute of Company Directors intend to be at the forefront of that process and in the policy debate more generally.     

For many years, we have worked actively with governments, oppositions, departmental officials and other stakeholders around Australia on policy development and by contributing to public debates on issues that are important to the long-term performance and productivity of our economy. The election of a new federal government gives us a great opportunity to continue this work on your behalf to advocate further reform of this kind at the national level. 

We have already developed strong relationships with many members of the new government and we look forward to those open and frank discussions continuing over the coming term with the ministers who will have responsibility for policy areas of relevance to the director community, as together we work towards better outcomes in the national interest.

As the fundamental source of income and growth in our economy, the private sector is the wellspring of prosperity. To improve the job prospects, living standards and wealth of all Australians, it is therefore essential that government provides the right environment for business – an idea I think the new administration in Canberra is very much aware of.

In writing to congratulate Abbott and his ministerial team on their election win, I pointed out they have a great responsibility entrusted to them by the Australian people to implement important reforms that will achieve the government’s stated aim of improving the business environment.

I suggested to them that these should include lifting the burden of excessive regulation, reducing the excessive liability imposed on company directors by legislation and improving the relationship between government and business, not just in terms of better consultation on policy and legislation but in innovative ways of bringing the knowledge and experience of business, and the business community’s concerns, to the policy formation process.

In terms of government’s attitude to business, there also needs to be a shift from what has been a “culture of blame” to a relationship that is creative, innovative and productive.  

We will also be engaging the government on a range of other issues of particular interest to directors, including governance and regulation in the not-for-profit sector, insolvency law reform and superannuation governance.

We particularly look forward to the new government moving decisively in its first term to reduce unnecessary regulation and red tape, which is strangling business and stifling investment and job creation.

In the lead up to the election, we called for a meeting of business representatives, senior ministers, key advisers and regulators within the first 100 days of the new government’s term as a starting point for implementing this reform. This would develop an action agenda for reforming the process of regulation creation and “destocking” the existing accumulation of red tape.

More broadly, Company Directors is also actively seeking the opportunity to be involved on some of the new structures for wider consultation with business that the Abbott government intends to establish.

These new bodies should be part of a wider revamp of the consultation process across the whole of government. For matters of major significance, an initial policy “green paper” should be produced and before its finalisation, the details of complex regulations should be tested through exposure drafts. Business and other stakeholders should also be consulted on final legislation before it is introduced into parliament.

We look forward to working closely with the Abbott government to help achieve these and other vital reforms.