As I write this article we are heading off to polls for the Federal Election on 7 September 2013. By the time you read this article the election may well be decided. Regardless of who comes into power, it is critical that the incoming government has received a clear list of priorities for the ACT and region.
Canberra Business Council has presented such a list of priorities to the major political parties during the election campaign. We have met with key people across the political spectrum and on 30 August 2013 we released a Plan for Growth and Jobs in Canberra & the Region at the CBC Senate Candidates Debate at the National Press Club.
Following the election the Council will continue to speak-up on behalf of the Canberra business community and engage with the incoming government to press the case for economic growth and jobs in Canberra.
Are the political parties listening? Not really! Canberra’s electorates are not regarded as “marginal seats” so we are frequently ignored during federal election campaigns and then overlooked by incoming governments.
This is particularly frustrating given that Canberra and the surrounding regions are in for a challenging time over the next year or so, regardless of which party forms the next Federal Government. Both of the major parties have made it clear that they will significantly cut the total number of Commonwealth Public Sector (APS) employees. Their rhetoric reflects a lack of understanding of the synergistic relationship between the public and private sectors in Canberra and a disregard for the magnitude of the impact that the proposed cuts will have on the economy, jobs and the private sector here.
They fail to recognise that the APS accounts for a large percentage (39%) of the total employment in the ACT so any cuts to the APS have a disproportionately large and negative impact on the local economy compared to other states and territories. This will be exacerbated this time around because the efficiencies are being targeted at the Executive (EL) and Senior Executive Service (SES) levels of the APS, of which 62% and 77% respectively are based in Canberra.
Canberra Business Council has developed a strategic and well-considered plan to encourage industry development, infrastructure, jobs and growth in Canberra and the surrounding region; to assist small business to survive and to support staff transitioning out of the APS. Over recent months the Council has consulted with over 30 peak industry bodies and local Councils and 150 businesses and individuals to determine the priority projects that will help the ACT adjust positively and confidently to Federal Government downsizing and maximise longer term opportunities for growth and jobs.
What is Canberra Business Council’s “wish list” for Canberra for the next Federal Government?
1. Contribute to building a new national convention centre (The Australia Forum)
2. Provide support for direct international flights to and from Singapore and NZ.
3. Upgrade Pialligo Avenue and Canberra Avenue; construct the Ellerton Drive Extension Ring Road in Queanbeyan; complete the duplication of the Barton Highway and upgrade the Kings and Monaro Highways.
4. Establish the ACT as a site for Federal Government-funded trials of ICT and digital projects which could seed exportable products or services.
5. Ensure small businesses have an opportunity to competitively tender for Federal Government work.
6. Re-establish the Capital Region Ministerial Business Roundtable.
7. Lift the status of the National Capital in the Ministry to Prime Minister and Cabinet.
8. Establish regular meetings between Federal Department Secretaries/Agency Heads, the Head of the ACT Public Service, representatives of ACT Business and the head of the ACT Public Service.
9. Support newly-elected Federal Parliamentarians to attend a “Meet the real Canberra” induction/ familiarisation day.
10. Go to market immediately seeking Expressions of Interest for the first stage of the High Speed Rail (HSR) project – Sydney to Canberra.
11. Commit to ongoing growth funding for the national cultural institutions and the NCA and provide $200 million to fund the next addition to the National Gallery of Australia. 12. Retain and grow a hub of world-class research and learning institutions in Canberra – the Australian National University, CSRIO, NICTA etc. – to enable the Territory to continue to leverage off these institutions to diversify its economy.
13. Commit to retaining Federal Government Departments and Agencies in the ACT.
14. Support separating APS staff who want start their own business.
15. Review and amend the citizenship requirements for entry into the APS and for consulting to the Federal Government.