Interview with Marius Benson
12 April 2012
SUBJECTS: Business Advisory Forum
David Bradbury the Government is today meeting with a large number of business people, this is a meeting ahead of tomorrow's COAG meeting when Governments get together from State, Territory and Federal levels. What do you want from today's meeting? Anything definite or is it just a talk fest?
Well this is the inaugural meeting of the Business Advisory Forum which is a forum that the Prime Minister has established and the idea is that this is a forum that will be held ahead of COAG meetings to give business the opportunity to advise Government directly ahead of those important COAG discussions in relation to key issues such as how to reduce regulation and red tape. One of the great challenges that this Government has been engaged with has been our Seamless National Economy reforms. As a consequence of those reforms we have made some massive improvements in harmonising State and Territory laws which has reduced regulation for business, made us a truly national economy in these particular respects. But of course we stand ready to listen to business so that we can make the changes that are necessary to reduce regulation further in the future.
Everyone is always against regulation although Australia is holding itself up as a model of regulation when it stood solid. Its banking system was not shaken by the global financial crisis. Everyone is against red tape, everyone is against green tape, but in practical terms are there measures that can come from a meeting like today?
Well there certainly are and I think it is important to have a look at the track record of success that has been achieved in the past. If you look at the Government's Seamless National Economy reforms, we have delivered some 16 of the 27 areas that had been identified and we continue to progress that agenda. But the areas that we have been focusing on have been largely around achieving harmonisation across the Australian economy and that obviously reduces red tape for business if they only have one particular set of laws to deal with rather than various laws in the different States and Territories.
You say that you're moving in the right direction with your harmonisation measures, but business seems to take a different view. For example, Peter Anderson who is the head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Labor had a promise to repeal one piece of legislation for any new piece introduced, but it hasn't kept that. The one in, one out was a good idea but you haven't done it.
I think it is important to focus on the massive improvements that have been made. We can focus on a statistical analysis of the numbers of regulations, but I think it is important to have a look at the actual financial impact of the reforms that have been implemented.
Is there an essential tension when the Labor Government gets together with its Business Advisory Forum as it does today, in that business as it is reported over and over again simply doesn't see you as a pro-business Government and that they would be more comfortable with the other side?
I think that I would refute the underlying assumption of what you have put to me there. We certainly have been working very closely with business. I think if you look in particular at the way in which the Government sector and private sector worked hand-in-glove together through the global financial crisis, this really does represent one of the greatest examples in Australian history of those two sectors, Government and business, working together in the interest of the national economy. We could not have gotten through the global financial crisis, averting recession, without the intervention of Government. But, we couldn't have done it without Government working very closely with business who made a significant contribution. So I think that we've got to be careful, there have been some debates that have raised particular concerns from particular sectors within the economy. That happens, particularly when you're tackling some vested interests. On the general question of the Government's capacity, willingness and record when it comes to working with business, I think that it is a very strong one and provides a platform for us to do a lot more into the future.
David Bradbury, thank you very much.
Good to talk to you Marius.