Productivity - Led by the Power of Private Enterprise

Posted on: Monday, 14 November 2016 at 8:55:53 PM

Article from the AICC(WA) Annual Productivity Event featuring Ms Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia hosted at EY, and and co-sponsored by Curtin Graduate School of Business, Curtin University, Metrix Consulting and Microsoft, held on 11 November 2016.

From L to R: Professor Mile' Terziovski, Dean, Curtin Graduate School of Business, Curtin University, Ms Cheryl Robertson, State Director WA, Microsoft Australia, Ms Julie Beeck, Executive Director, Metrix Consulting, Dr Patricia V Kailis AM OBE, Founding Director, MG Kailis Group, Professor Lyn Beazley AO, FTSE CIE, Sir Walter Murdoch Distinguished Professor of Science, Murdoch University, Mr Gordon Cole, Managing Director, G Cole Consulting Indigenous Entrepreneur & Business Leader and Inaugural Chairperson, Noongar Chamber & Commerce & Industry., Mr Greg Meyerowitz, Partner, EY and Mr John Cluer, Chief Executive, Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (WA)

 

Increased productivity through innovation is the driving element of Australia’s economic transformation. The AICC(WA) Annual Productivity event provides WA business leaders the opportunity to explore and discuss both local and national elements of the productivity agenda.

EY Perth host, Michael Anghie Managing Partner of EY set the scene of the presentation by recounting a week of change and unpredictability brought by the US election. Noting the importance of leadership in responding to unforseen shifts in business markets, Mr Anghie reaffirmed the EY relationship with the AICC both in WA and across Australia, a partnership which contributes to public debate and helps build resilience. Further inspired by Remembrance Day, Mr Gordon Cole also extended a Welcome to Whadjuk Nyoongar country and invoked stirring memories of his grandfather’s service.

On behalf of event sponsor Curtin Graduate School of Business, Professor Mile Terziovski identified factors and trends that influence productivity, including innovation, flexibility, talent war and climate change. He linked this to the Curtin mission for students, staff and graduates to be highly regarded internationally as ethical and engaged contributors to more inclusive, sustainable and prosperous communities. Curtin has responded by introducing a Masters of Innovation and Entrepreneurship with MIT, and has also engaged in Women in MBA scholarships aimed at closing the gender diversity gap.

Mr Michael Anghie, Managing Partner, Strategic Growth Oceania and Western Region and Asia Pacific Strategic Growth Leader, EY

 

 Professor Mile' Terziovski, Dean, Curtin Graduate School of Business, Curtin University

“To say we are living in volatile times is an understatement” contended Ms Jennifer Westcott as she introduced her topic by noting that the delivery of stability, empathy and understanding by business is more critical than ever. Drawing observations from the US Presidential election she noted that blame and diminution is unhelpful in understanding what is driving the current unease in many parts of the population. Alluding to Israel she affirmed the relationship between the Business Council of Australia (“BCA”) and the AICC, and accorded an accolade to the business culture of Israel which facilitates new business development. She further noted that peace is delivered through prosperity.

Mr Gordon Cole, Managing Director, G Cole Consulting, Indigenous Entrepreneur & Business Leader and Inaugural Chairperson, Noongar Chamber & Commerce & Industry.

Australia has confronted below average real wage growth, the goal of owning a home is becoming less obtainable and people are beginning to distrust the institutions and societal systems that have delivered stability. The temptation for political leaders is to pursue policy for control and protection ahead of longer term prospects for employment and growth is of concern to the BCA, which advocates that the latter cannot be achieved without a strong business community.

Ms Westcott noted that WA is no stranger to growth in China and discussed the geopolitical shift in Australia’s economic trading partners. “We must deal with a new, and not a temporary, change in the competitive landscape, and benchmark ourselves against productivity changes in Asian economies.” She contended that the pace of change in developing countries was often faster than that experienced within OECD economies which are more traditionally used for comparative measurement. “Companies are scrambling to reorganise and meet the demands of an empowered consumer. It is the consumer that will be the innovator, and the regulator of future market responsiveness”.

Ms Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia

Taking note of Israel’s record, Ms Westacott discussed cross-border commerce, the acculturation of trade and the impact of small, open and interconnected economies. It is evidenced that policy supporting the development of private enterprise is the fundamental driver of productivity. In Australia 10 million people are employed by corporate business, and 80% of economic activity is generated by the business sector. Ms Westacott challenged that those who campaign against favourable conditions for business are duty bound to explain how Australia can prosper without the contribution of private enterprise.      

Ms Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia

Noting the interaction between large and small business, Ms Westacott proposed the conditions needed for business to prosper. These included;

  • Fostering a stronger sense of purpose
  • Better understanding and engagement of consumers
  • Working with suppliers as partners, not just contractors
  • Deepening shared values through a core focus on business objectives.

The BCA aspires to support Australian business to be more competitive by advocating for policy that drives economic growth. Threatened by uncompetitive tax burdens, Australian business has its creativity stifled. Ms Westacott cautioned that if the incoming US President delivers on his campaign proposal to reduce US company tax from 35% to 15% then Australia could encounter further competitive tension of proportions yet to be imagined. She also strongly represented BCA opposition to proposed tax increases on iron ore noting that Australia still needs mining, inclusive of reinvestment and renewal. “Markets can buy their raw materials from someone else, and if they will if Australian product does not represent value for money.”

The dimensions that feed into enhanced productivity include education, employment and financial control. Ms Westacott asserted that a world class education system was critical. “We cannot control foreign markets, but we can deliver the skills and competitiveness of our people”. She discussed how flexibility in the workforce and better jobs and incomes drive productivity. “Australia needs to revisit its discussion about workplace relations. Our system needs to be incentive driven”. Finally, she discussed fiscal responsibility both in the context of creating the capacity to invest in new business development and to absorb cyclical economic shocks by arresting public debt. “This is not about mindless cost cutting, but about careful design of a smarter workforce”.

Ms Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia and Mr John Langoulant AO, WA State President, CEDA and Advisor to the Vice Chancellor, Curtin University

 Ms Westacott concluded her address by reiterating that a robust economy, driven by private enterprise will deliver prosperity to Australia. Although populist solutions appear attractive, the risk is that they mostly carry a short term benefit at the expense of devastating long term consequences. The job of setting policy to protect and evolve business is a collective and urgent task.  Business must also respond by being ethical and markets must remain socially responsible. “Enabling business to prosper will lift productivity and provide improved living standards for our future generations. We should accept nothing less.”

In dialogue facilitated by Mr John Langoulant, Chairman of Westpac WA, Chairman of GESB and a CEDA Board Member, the changing landscape of Australian business was further explored. Mr Langoulant described the oration by Ms Westacott as a tour de force of business. Issues such as executive remuneration models, wages and enterprise bargaining, academic collaboration, board gender balance and foreign investment structures were all raised from the floor. Ms Westacott provided personal insight into each of these matters particularly noting that the composition of the boardroom must be based on substance, not prejudice. She also talked about well managed incentives to attract business. “If we don’t provide the right environment, investors will take their money elsewhere.”

A transcript of Ms Westacott’s speech to the AICC(WA) is available on this link.

 

 

Ms Julie Beeck, Executive Director, Metrix Consulting

Metrix Consulting provided a productivity survey to the event, with more than 100 responses received and analysed real time. The full report is available on this link. Summary conclusions were that there were mixed views on the effectiveness of Australian productivity, but the majority of respondents considered we lagged behind both Israel and New Zealand. Leadership is the core generator of productivity, with innovation and business culture being the favoured enabling factors. It was agreed that a flexible work environment including working from home had a positive impact on productivity. Greater gender balance on boards would also improve productivity.

Mr John Cluer, Chief Executive, Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (WA) and Ms Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia

 

About Jennifer Westacott

Jennifer Westacott has been Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia since 2011, bringing extensive policy experience in both the public and private sectors.

For over 20 years Jennifer occupied critical leadership positions in the New South Wales and Victorian governments. She was the Director of Housing and the Secretary of Education in Victoria, and most recently was the Director-General of the New South Wales Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources.

From 2005 to 2011 Jennifer was senior partner at KPMG, heading up the firm’s Sustainability, Climate Change and Water practice and its NSW State Government practice. Jennifer was also a board director for the firm. During her time at KPMG, Jennifer advised some of Australia’s major corporations on climate change and sustainability matters, and provided advice to governments around Australia on major reform priorities.

Jennifer facilitates the contribution of the Business Council of Australia’s CEO members across a policy agenda that includes economic policy and competitiveness; regulation; infrastructure and sustainable growth; labour market, skills and education; engagement with Indigenous Australians, global engagement; healthcare policy; and innovation.

Jennifer coordinated the development and release of the BCA’s landmark Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity in 2013, which is widely recognised as one of the most significant contributions to economic policy debate in Australia in recent years.

Jennifer has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the University of New South Wales, where she is an Adjunct Professor at the City Research Futures Centre. She was a Chevening Scholar at the London School of Economics.

Jennifer is a National Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and since 2013 has been a Non-Executive Director of Wesfarmers Limited and Chair of the Mental Health Council of Australia.

 

From Top left clockwise: Ms Cheryl Robertson, State Director WA, Microsoft Australia, Ms Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia, Professor Lyn Beazley AO, FTSE CIE, Sir Walter Murdoch Distinguished Professor of Science, Murdoch University, Ms Robin McClellan, Chief Executive Officer, Leadership Western Australia, Ms Erica Haddon, Executive General Manager People, Change & Innovation, RACWA Holdings Pty Ltd, Professor John Mamo, Director, Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University, Ms Robin McClellan, Chief Executive Officer, Leadership Western Australia, Ms Cheryl Edwardes AM, Senior Advisor, FTI Consulting, Mr Ian Green, Deputy Chairman, Gull New Zealand, Professor Mile' Terziovski, Dean, Curtin Graduate School of Business, Curtin University, Mr Michael Anghie, Managing Partner, Strategic Growth Oceania and Western Region and Asia Pacific Strategic Growth Leader, EY, Ms Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia and Dr Patricia V Kailis AM OBE, Founding Director, MG Kailis Group

 

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