Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA - The Future of Work: CCI IR Conference 2018

Speech
  • Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation
  • Member for Reid

It is a pleasure to join you today for your conference exploring the future of work.

I would like to share with you my insights on both the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead as we look at what the future of work will be like.

Your vision is for Western Australia to be a world-leading place to live and do business, and a key part of that is a focus on making it easier to do business.

This is a vision that the Turnbull Government shares.

Our Government is determined to help business thrive in this country, as well as support Australians looking for a job and to help prepare them for the future of work.

Australians are adapting well to the changes of the last decade, but we need to stay on the front foot. Individuals, employers, education providers and Government all need to play a part in building a prosperous future for Australia.

We want Australia to be home to world-class businesses that invest in the skills of their people, build on their competitive strengths, innovate and drive productivity and growth.

Businesses like WA’s own Future Engineering, a machining and fabrication company that was impacted by the downturn in the resources sector.

They repurposed their services to a wider range of industries – targeting the defence and oil and gas sectors and have grown their revenue by over 10 per cent and added new employees.

They’ve moved to larger premises and invested in new equipment. The Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Program has helped owners Alex and Jo to not only survive the downturn in the resources sector but thrive and grow.

Or another WA business, Australian Ceramics Engineering – or ACE, who supply the mining industry with metallic and ceramic wear liners.

Helped by the Entrepreneurs’ Program, they looked for opportunities to improve their business.

They restructured management, implemented a sales department and grew their product range. The result has been an increase from two or three major customers to 20 in the last few years.

We want businesses to actively foster export markets, and look to carve out new niches in the changing market.

An important part of this is for business to keep enhancing their digital capability, embracing new technology and being alive to the opportunities it presents.

Technology is opening new employment and business opportunities by creating new demand, lowering the cost of production and lowering barriers to entry.

This is especially powerful when combined with new ways to access global markets and consumers, such as online platforms like Alibaba, which make it easier and more affordable for Australian entrepreneurs to bring new products to market quickly.

One issue that is quite topical at the moment is the gig economy. Many Australians now use mobile apps for in-demand services, such as transportation or food delivery.

In fact Western Australia has over 325,000 active riders using the Uber app and over 300 restaurants, predominantly small businesses, using Deliveroo to deliver food to customers. Often referred to as the ‘gig economy’, jobs are broken down into short-term tasks or ‘gigs’, generally undertaken by self-employed independent contractors.

There are suggestions from some that we need to urgently step in and regulate the industry with a one-size-fits all approach.

I’d like to point out a couple of things. Firstly, the ‘gig’ economy is still very small.

Less than one per cent of adult Australians use the gig economy to obtain work on a regular basis.

In September 2017, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia estimated that approximately 100,000 people — or 0.8 per cent of the workforce — use digital platforms to obtain work on a regular basis

It is important to explore the many benefits that new business models and flexible approaches can bring for both business and for people looking for work.

There is evidence that digital platforms are boosting employment and income for those on the ‘fringe’ of the labour market, with many utilising the various apps and platforms available as a form of supplementary income.

In fact over half of all drivers using the Uber app do so for less than 10 hours a week.

The same goes for Deliveroo with over half of their riders doing delivery work alongside some other form of income.

And on Airtasker over 70 per cent of people each month are doing less than five tasks.

It is vital for Australia, as a globally competitive nation, to have new ways of enabling economic growth and job creation.

I would therefore encourage people to see beyond the noise on this subject.

While the Government recognises how important it is to protect people from exploitation, it is also important that we do not stifle new technology-based business models with unnecessary regulation and red tape.

There has been some commentary in recent days about my commitment and about the Government’s commitment to workplace relations reform.

I can advise you that without a doubt, this Government and I are committed to making sensible and practical reforms to ensure that our workplace relations system works for all Australians.

Unfortunately, when we have sought to make recent changes to the Fair Work Act – for example the 4 Yearly Review Repeal Bill which was supported by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Ai Group AND the ACTU – Labor simply played politics with it.

We remain 100 per cent committed to getting the Ensuring Integrity Bill through the Parliament. Now that the merger between the MUA and CFMEU is a grim reality, this Bill becomes more important than ever.

In particular, the Bill expands the grounds for disqualifying officials and cancelling registration - thereby increasing the prospects of a successful application going forward if officials continue to wilfully ignore the rule of law.

The Bill would also introduce more robust options to enable the Courts to better target offending parts of registered organisations or to disqualify certain officers.

The Government will also continue to pursue the Proper Use of Worker Benefits Bill, which has passed the House and is currently in the Senate.

But it seems that some commentators and industry associations alike have very short memories.

I’d like to remind you that we instigated the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption and committed to the bulk of its recommendations.

Twenty-nine of them have already been actioned and another 13 more will be implemented by the legislation I just mentioned.

We went to a double dissolution election to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, to stand alongside small and medium sub-contractors to level the playing field and give them a fair go on our building sites.

We established the Registered Organisations Commission to ensure greater transparency and oversight of employer bodies and unions.

Our corrupting benefits legislation has gone a long way towards outlawing corrupt and illegitimate payments between employers and unions which are not to the benefit of workers and requires greater disclosure from employers and registered organisations of the financial benefits they obtain from enterprise agreements.

We have also secured important protections for vulnerable workers with the passage of the Protecting Vulnerable Workers Act, which included increased penalties by up to 10 times current amounts for ‘serious contraventions’ of the Fair Work Act.

The Turnbull Government will continue to pursue workplace relations reform where a strong policy case can be made – I call on the Chamber to help make the case for sensible change.

Our Government remains committed to creating jobs and growth across the nation and we are already seeing great results from our efforts to create the right policy settings.

Our economic plan is clearly working.

Jobs growth in 2017 was the best year on record, which shows we are delivering on that promise.

Australia's run of the best jobs growth ever continues with the number of jobs increasing for the 17th straight month in February 2018.

In fact, this is the longest consecutive run of jobs growth since the monthly labour force series commenced 40 years ago.

In the last year the total number of jobs created was 420,700, compared with the previous government’s last year in office, which saw only 88,900 jobs created.

Total employment and total full-time employment are both at record highs.

And there is a reasonably bright outlook right here in Western Australia.

It is just one example, but CleanSubSea – or CSS – have increased their staff from three to nine.

CSS are developing a way to clean ship’s hulls while the vessel is still in the water without damaging the environment.

They’ve brought on engineering, design and production expertise already and the potential for growth is huge.

Their innovation represents hope for a world-wide problem and an opportunity for the Perth business to capture a global multi-billion dollar industry. 

Or Proteomics International who by the end of last year had increased their employees from two to 25.

They’ve accelerated development of a new diagnostic test for diabetic kidney disease.

Their work has potential to save lives all over the world and reduce the burden on the health system.

While Western Australia has had to adjust from mining investment-led growth, to more broadly based growth, I am pleased to say that the state and national outlook remain positive.

Forward indicators of labour market activity suggest employment should continue to expand in the period ahead.

And to make sure that happens, we are backing small business to continue to create jobs and to grow.

Right now, as a result of the Government’s legislated changes, incorporated businesses with an annual turnover of less than $25 million benefit from a corporate tax rate of 27.5 per cent.

That’s the lowest it’s been for half a century. And from July this year companies with an annual turnover of $50 million or less will also benefit from the cut in the company tax rate to 27.5 per cent.

Under our current plan, by 2026–27, we will have reduced the company tax rate for all businesses to 25 per cent, stimulating economic growth for the nation.

In the last Budget we also extended the $20,000 instant asset write-off for another 12 months to 30 June 2018.

Businesses with an annual turnover of less than $10 million can access the write-off — a five-fold increase in the turnover threshold which can help with things like upgrading machinery and equipment.

We’ve also cut around $5.8 billion-worth of red tape since coming to office.

And we will continue to help business to focus on digital technology as part of our focus on the future of work.

Our Government is harnessing the opportunities that come from our evolving economy and new technologies to secure our prosperity as a nation.

We’re supporting Australian businesses to take advantage of new digital opportunities, because we understand how important this is.

I know I’m probably preaching to converted here, but I think digital technology presents three very clear opportunities for Australian businesses.

First, it improves business productivity, freeing up time to work on growing a business, rather than simply running the business.

Second, it can help create a better experience for the consumer, and foster a stronger relationship between a business and consumer.

Third, it allows a business to access new customers and markets both within and beyond Australia.

WA company Lodge iT supplies accounting firms and accounting software providers with a multi-functional compliance platform that provides accurate and fast tax form preparation and lodgement abilities.

They’re selling their innovation here and overseas and competing with bigger players on a global stage.

The Government has a number of policies and programs actively supporting businesses to embrace digital technology.

Our insights are also forming part of our Digital Economy Strategy. The strategy will be released this year and sets out a forward plan so businesses and citizens can take full advantage of the digital economy.

It’s very satisfying for me to be able to help build a strong economic environment, which is both great for business, and for Australians looking for work.

When organisations like yours do well, more employment opportunities open up for all Australians.

Businesses become stronger; local, regional and state economies grow; and society is much the richer.

Unlike Labor, the Turnbull Government has a positive agenda to take this country forward into the future.

I hope you enjoy the rest of today’s conference.

For more information

Media mailbox: media@jobs.gov.au