Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce
Wednesday 6 November 2019

Modern Australia was built on the back of vision, enterprise and the sheer hard work of past generations.  Big ideas and innovation by entrepeneurs, scientists, visionaries and past political leaders laid the foundations of a prosperous and free enterprise economy which is the envy of every other nation.

 

In recent years the rise of political correctness, nay sayers and negative thinking has stifled the bold and visionary ideas.  At all three levels of government petty bureaucracy is suffocating business growth and investment through unnecessary red tape, approval processes and costs.  If this ever diminishing spiral into complete inactivity is not corrected we run the real risk of being left behind by the rest of the world.

 

During a recent trip to Europe I observed a Cochlear Hearing Aid factory in Hanover, Germany.  Yet another example of an iconic Australian invention being successfully manufactured overseas.  In a nearby German regional town I also saw a large commercial hub alongside an Autobahn.  Yet in Australia we seem to have great difficulty moving enterprises out of metropolitan areas.  What is the point of difference? Transport, power, government incentives or just plain will to succeed.

 

On a Communist History tour of Prague in nearby Czechoslovakia I asked our guide what had happened after the fall of the iron curtain that allowed free enterprise to flourish.  His reply was that all they needed was to have free enterprise made legal!  Modern Czechoslovakia not only has significant agricultural industries but also a very successful and growing manufacturing sector.

 

These countries possess no particular advantage but are finding ways to innovate and develop high tech industries.  Meanwhile in Australia with significant natural resources, a highly educated workforce and stable democratic government system under which free enterprise has always been legal we are not keeping pace with the rest of the developed world.

 

NSW in particular is a nanny state where bureaucratic intervention must be costing industry millions of dollars on a daily basis.  The Planning system is one very good example of a bureaucratic minefield for industry and business.  A recent exercise to map coastal wetlands using aerial photography combined with flawed analytical software has resulted in erroneous mapping and the sterilisation of many development sites.  Rather than correct the errors by allowing councils to “ground truth” the maps the onus and cost has been shifted to the private sector via a convoluted and expensive requirement to prove the mapped vegetation does not exist.

 

A further NSW example is payroll tax which penalises employers for taking on more staff and growing their business.  This tax is a disincentive to small business growth, particularly those in regional areas where youth unemployment is unacceptably high.  In likewise fashion stamp duty on commercial premises is exorbitant and the rate rises with the value of the premises.  This is a further disincentive to business activity and employment growth where the government taxes the purchase of the very premises that houses the enterprise.

 

Big ticket infrastructure projects such as the Snowy Scheme are also unlikely to be achieved in this current climate of negativity.  The devastating drought in NSW has highlighted some three decades where no new dams or water infrastructure has been built.  Thankfully there has been a recent announcement of one new dam and a pipeline for the nearby tablelands but even this drew criticism from the ever negative green lobby.

 

Syria, a war ravaged country run by a despotic regime has the largest irrigation system on earth to allow farming in arid areas.  Therefore in Australia we can and must have a comprehensive system of dams capturing and storing high flows with interconnecting pipelines that provide water security for domestic uses and guarantees irrigation rights for our agricultural industries.

 

The removal of government intervention, reduction in taxes on employment and the provision of big infrastructure to support industry are all possible and achievable in Australia with leadership, political will and a return to vision and enterprise being valued and encouraged.

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