ACT Chamber

One voice of business a step closer

B2B Editor1 July 2014

One voice of business a step closer

On June 11 an overwhelming majority of eligible members of the ACT & Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Chamber) voted in favour of creating a single organisation to represent the interests of business in Canberra and the region in conjunction with the Canberra Business Council (Council).

The Boards of the Chamber and the Council have for some time been considering this significant prospect to combine the strengths of the two organisations to provide a greater depth and quality to the important services that they provide to business – and members have now given their blessing to embark on this new and exciting approach to business representation.

Members have shown their full support for this important move as combining the skills, experience and resources of the Chamber and Council will now enable us to create a single, stronger organisation which can only be good news for business.

From the smallest business to the biggest business, the goal is to create a new organisation that will work hard to understand their needs and to help them grow and prosper.

Our Chairman, Julian Barrington-Smith publicly thanked Ms Michelle Melbourne, Chair of the Canberra Business Council, the boards and staff of the Chamber and the Council, and respective members of both organisations for all the hard work that has gone into reaching this historic agreement.

Members of the transitional board include:

* Julian Barrington-Smith, Managing Director, The Good Guys (Tuggeranong)

* Keith Cantlie, Director, Cantlie

* John Hindmarsh, Executive Chairman, Hindmarsh

* Louise Hughes, CEO, SRC Solutions

* Kathy Kostyrko, Director, Public Sector, Hays Specialist Recruitment

* Laurie McDonald, Director, Canberra Furnished Accommodation

* Michelle Melbourne, Executive Director, Intelledox

* Kristine Riethmiller, Director, KMR Consulting

* Craig Sloan, Partner, KPMG

* Chris Taylor, Area General Manager, Telstra Corporation

* Archie Tsirimokos, Managing Partner, Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers

* Mike Zissler, CEO, Lifeline Canberra

ACT Budget fiscally necessary but debt reduction strategy needed

We recently saw the ACT Government deliver its Budget and the Chamber welcomed it as being fiscally necessary but warns that more action is required to rein in escalating debt and remove barriers to private sector investment.

The ACT Budget 2014-15 forecasts an operating loss of $333 million but with a net borrowing requirement of $862 million. Although Andrew Barr predicts a return to surplus in the 2017-18 financial years, the overall borrowing requirement will have blown out to $2.7 billion, with an interest bill of $216 million. Further, Net Financial Liabilities blow out from $3677.5 million in 2013-14 to $5111.1 in 2017-18, a massive increase of almost 40 per cent.

The Budget contains a number of measures welcomed by the business community, including additional payroll tax relief, reduction in stamp duty, incentives to grow local businesses and attract businesses to Canberra, and maintains a continued focus on tackling red tape. However, the Budget does contain a number of business imposts including a significant increase in the Fire and Emergency Services Levy on commercial properties – an increase of 35% and a direct hit on business; and funding of some $23 million to commence planning for the Light Rail Project – a project running the risk of becoming a political project not an economic project; and best left for when the budget is back in surplus.

With this Budget, Andrew Barr has managed a difficult situation well, but he is strongly encouraged to further identify asset sales and to be more aggressive in cutting expenses to balance the books. Importantly, the ACT’s economic future depends on private sector growth to drive investment and create new jobs, particularly for young Canberrans.

The Government’s role going forward is to remove any barriers that restrict this growth as there is no other way to restore the Territory’s economic position.