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Tag Archives: BCA jennifer Westacott

Lenore Taylor, April 24, 2012

Frustrated ... Jennifer Westacott questions the lack of coherent policies.Frustrated … Jennifer Westacott questions the lack of coherent policies.

BUSINESS believes the political system is failing the country and is frustrated with the divisive political debate and short-sighted agendas of all parties, the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, said yesterday.

”We are having this divisive, issue-by-issue conversation but we are seeing no coherent plan for long-term economic growth … In fact we are seeing many issues that once had fundamental bipartisan agreement now being argued and contested,” Ms Westacott told the Herald.

She said she was worried the Greens ”did not start from the premise that economic growth was a good thing” and the party’s new leader, Christine Milne, was ”seeking to divide the business community” by saying she would talk only to ”progressive” businesses.

Speaking as the claims against the Speaker, Peter Slipper – who has stood down – increased the uncertainty regarding the minority government, Ms Westacott said the political malaise that was endangering Australia’s long record of economic growth extended to the major parties.

She criticised the Labor Party for referring to business as ”big polluters” and its questioning of the right of business personalities to have a say in the national debate.

She also attacked the Gillard government for shutting down any conversation about the detail of carbon pricing or reform of industrial relations, and the Coalition for providing no policy details and at times appearing to question policy issues that had once been bipartisan, such as the desirability of foreign investment.

”The divisive issue-by-issue conversation of minority government leaves us with no coherent economic plan, and certainly no plan that starts from the premise that economic growth is a good thing not a bad thing … It’s a bit-by-bit conversation and it is leaving business frustrated and disappointed,” Ms Westacott said.

”The day-by-day story at the moment is always about division, and the unfolding story on each new issue and each new crisis means we haven’t got any longer-term focus.

”We built our current living standards on a shared understanding between unions, government and business that we need strong competitive industries, but now when we raise threats to those industries people say we have no right to even talk about them … If we question the details of the carbon price then suddenly we are climate deniers … If we say we want to look at the industrial relations system then instantly we are supposed to want to go back to Work Choices.

”As for the Coalition, it has given us no detail, and when [shadow treasurer] Joe Hockey makes a speech about welfare and ending the age of entitlement, which was spot on from our point of view, he is criticised for it and the discussion is shut down,” she said.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, told ABC television last night he was ”not planning to cut benefits … but government has to live within its means”.

He said Mr Hockey was referring to the need to avoid higher social benefits available in Europe. ”We certainly don’t support means tests the government is putting on in breach of pre-election commitments,” he said.

Ms Westacott said the government’s plans for skills and training and the reforms to environmental approvals agreed at last week’s Council of Australian Governments meeting had been positive, and she praised the Coalition for proposing a commission of audit into government expenditure should it win the next election.

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