In this Victorian election, make sure the government can govern

Herlad Sun: In this Victorian election, make sure the government can govern. Mark Stone. 21 November 2014

Mark Stone is chief executive of the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

This week I applauded both major parties’ adoption of many of our Victorian election agenda recommendations for business and state economic growth.

However, I stated that business is disappointed that the opportunity to lift the payroll tax threshold remains outstanding.

My comments came as more than 250 of Victoria’s business leaders gathered to hear The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s report back on the economic commitments of both major parties prior to the November 29 election.

VECCI’s Taking Care of Business state election agenda calls for action to support jobs, infrastructure, skills and international engagement and we have seen significant pledges in these areas that will help raise business competitiveness.

Key policy outcomes include:

JOBS: Strong job creation plans, with the Coalition pledging to create 200,000 jobs over five years and Labor 100,000 over two years through a range of measures, including tax incentives.

INFRASTRUCTURE: Support for major infrastructure projects including building a metro rail tunnel, privatising the Port of Melbourne, removing level crossings and widening the Tullamarine Freeway.

The Coalition’s significant rolling stock investment, with a strong emphasis on local content and job creation, has been welcomed by industry and Labor now needs to demonstrate a similar commitment.

Two key points of difference between the major parties relate to their positions on constructing the East West Link and expanding the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Both projects are strongly supported by VECCI, but only have commitment from the Coalition to date.

These projects are vitally important to business and we would hope that Labor reconsiders its positions if elected, as the next term is predicted to see an increasingly strong environment for infrastructure investment.

With forecasts showing the state’s budget surplus rising to $3 billion in 2017-18, the next government will have the capacity to make significant investments in infrastructure without incurring debt or raising taxes.

SKILLS: Strong commitments to apprenticeships and training to support the creation of a well-trained, job-ready workforce.

In keeping with VECCI’s recommendations, Victorian Labor committed to reforming the vocational training system by improving VET regulation and undertaking a review of VET funding.

INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENT: Commitments to further boost Victoria’s strong international engagement record through an expanded inbound and outbound trade missions program and the establishment of new Victorian Government Business Offices in South America and Asia.

Further commitment from both parties in supporting business to seize growth opportunities in the Asian Century, as well as those related to the recently signed free trade agreements, would be welcomed.

VECCI is particularly calling for increased support to capitalise on strong international demand for Victorian products in the services, healthcare and agribusiness sectors.

Business is frustrated that neither major party has committed to raising the payroll tax threshold from $550,000 to $850,000, as this measure would reduce business costs and encourage job creation.

With the unemployment rate predicted to stay above 6 per cent for the next two years, this change is required urgently.

While November 29 is fast approaching, both parties still have the opportunity to influence business.

Business is asking why the parties are not taking the opportunity to create jobs by lifting what is currently Australia’s lowest payroll tax threshold.

We will keep pushing policy makers to adopt outstanding commitments before the election and into the new term of government if required.

I also urge voters to consider their choice this election.

Do not waste your vote. Use it wisely to make sure Victoria has a majority government with a mandate to deliver on its commitments.

Mark Stone is VECCI chief executive

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